Carne draws Tram-Train and West­ern wiring cost par­al­lels

Rail (UK) - - News - An­drew Ro­den Con­tribut­ing Writer rail@bauer­me­dia.co.uk @AndyRo­den1

NET­WORK Rail (NR) Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Mark Carne has said that the root causes of in­ac­cu­rate cost es­ti­mates with the Sh­effield TramTrain project are sim­i­lar to those ex­pe­ri­enced on the Great West­ern Route Moderni­sa­tion (GWRM).

Carne was speak­ing to the House of Com­mons Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee on Oc­to­ber 30 when he made the par­al­lel.

“On the GWRM, we talked about cost es­ti­mates be­ing in­ad­e­quate. Net­work Rail’s fund­ing regime led to a cul­ture of agree­ing to costs be­fore proper de­sign work was done. The crit­i­cal dif­fer­ence is that this (Tram-Train) was a pi­lot project look­ing at new tech­nol­ogy and de­vel­op­ing tech­nol­ogy for the first time – there was an ad­di­tional tech­ni­cal risk,” he said.

Net­work Rail Lon­don North Eastern and East Mid­lands Route Di­rec­tor Rob McIn­tosh pointed out that the UK’s ver­sion of TramTrain is unique in its ap­pli­ca­tion of dual-volt­age trams, which ini­tially will run un­der 750v DC over­head wires but are ca­pa­ble of work­ing on 25kV cate­nary should the Mid­land Main Line north of Sh­effield be elec­tri­fied. He later added: “In 2014, we be­gan to get a greater depth of un­der­stand­ing about the de­mands of dual-volt­age tech­nol­ogy… we should have been clearer with the De­part­ment for Trans­port about the level of risk as­so­ci­ated with the tech­nol­ogy.”

Later in the hear­ing, De­part­ment for Trans­port (DfT) Di­rec­tor of Rail Net­work Ser­vices Brian Etheridge said that when the de­ci­sion was taken to make the over­head cate­nary on NR met­als ca­pa­ble of han­dling 25kV there was “A very re­al­is­tic propo­si­tion that that part of the line would be elec­tri­fied in the fu­ture. We would ac­cept that given this was a trial, this in­tro­duced ad­di­tional risks and costs.” How­ever, he also pointed out that a later con­ver­sion to 25kV would have also added a “con­sid­er­able cost.”

DfT Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary Ber­nadette Kelly de­nied that costs for the project – which now stand at £75.1 mil­lion – were de­lib­er­ately un­der­es­ti­mated, and she was backed by Carne, who crit­i­cised NR’s pre­vi­ous project cost­ing regime: “There was no rigour or re­quire­ment to get it [the es­ti­mate] much bet­ter be­cause the reg­u­la­tory process al­lowed you sub­se­quently to ‘catch up’”, he said.

Kelly added that from 2014 a great deal more rigour was at­tached to cost es­ti­mates, but re­asserted the fact that tram-train was a pi­lot project and that, as such, there “was a level of risk as­so­ci­ated with it.”

Etheridge said that if the TramTrain project was be­gun to­day, the de­part­ment would ask for an in­de­pen­dent as­sess­ment of project risks and sched­ule.

On the sub­ject of Trea­sury con­cerns about ris­ing costs, Carne told the com­mit­tee that the Trea­sury was not ini­tially in­volved as Net­work Rail was able to bor­row money in pri­vate mar­kets, with reg­u­la­tory scru­tiny act­ing as checks and bal­ances. “This was not an ap­pro­pri­ate way to run a ma­jor cap­i­tal pro­gramme,” he said.

But while there was ac­knowl­edge­ment of the project’s cost fail­ings, Carne said that with the tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped for the pi­lot scheme, any fu­ture tram-train projects could “move for­ward with a greater de­gree of con­fi­dence.” He high­lighted in­ter­est from Black­pool, Cardiff, Glas­gow and Manch­ester, adding: “We have learnt a lot and we have de­vel­oped tech­nol­ogy that will en­able us to move ahead more quickly if peo­ple wanted to pur­sue this.”

Tram-Train is ex­pected to carry its first pas­sen­gers in Septem­ber 2018, af­ter which de­tailed eval­u­a­tion into its ben­e­fits will take place.

MIKE HADDON.

Cost es­ti­mates on the Sh­effield Tram-Train trial due to start in 2018, which is more than 400% over­bud­get, have been com­pared to those of the Great West­ern elec­tri­fi­ca­tion scheme. There have been a se­ries of Sun­day en­gi­neer­ing pos­ses­sions in the Rotherham area dur­ing Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber for over­head line elec­tri­ca­tion in­stal­la­tion and as­sorted in­fra­struc­ture up­grades. This im­age shows work un­der­way at Rotherham Cen­tral on Oc­to­ber 15.

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