More Costs and More Delays to Rail Upgrades

Last week, we reported a prediction from the Construction Products Association that they believe if construction of HS2 is to happen, it would be starting a couple of years (more) late, in 2020. Well it seems this is consistent with projects already underway, which are becoming increasingly late and over-budget.

Two projects have recently been highlighted as in trouble, the Great Western Electrification, which has been prioritised by the DfT, and a similar project between Manchester and Blackpool, part of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ vision.

Modern Railways have reported that Network Rail failed to realise how long it would take to electrify Great Western through the Severn Tunnel, and the planned date of getting electrification all the way to Swansea by 2018 is now looking more like 2020. This is obviously going to increase the cost of the project, which currently has a budget of £1.8bn, about double the original one.

This delay comes on top of those caused by the problems with ‘HOPS’, the High Output Plant System, an electrification factory train. This system is only now just about hitting its’ target of driving 24 piles per night, after problems with it hitting signalling wires and a lack of staff capable of operating it and mission creep which saw the project enlarged to include other upgrades that weren’t originally included in the budget or timescale

Another project which is creeping away from its’ timescale .and budget is the electrification of the line from Preston to Blackpool, because the contractor is creeping away. Despite signing a contract for seven stages of the Northern Hub project, Balfour Beatty have decided to walk away after only completing two of them. Stages one and two were for the electrification of Manchester and Newton-le-Willows and then from Newton-le-Willows to Liverpool Lime Street with Huyton to Wigan.

Stages three and four were from electrification from Manchester to Preston and then on to Blackpool. The other stages of the project were Oxenholme to Windemere, Wigan to Lostock and the already ‘paused’ Manchester to Leeds and York.

Balfour Beatty released this statement:
“In the first half [of the year], phase 2 of the North West electrification project reached practical completion. However following a review of future schemes in the North West, it was concluded that the proposed alliance was unlikely to meet its stated objectives of delivering the scope of the work on time and to budget. In July, it was agreed with Network Rail that Balfour Beatty would not continue with the alliance framework for phases 3-7.”

This delay puts the plans for the new Blackpool-London services, due to start in 2018, in jeopardy, as they are meant to be electric trains. The concept now is that a new contractor will have to be appointed, but given one has already pulled out saying they couldn’t get the project in on time or on budget, how any new contract works out remains to be seen.

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