Ministerial statement in relation to major rail improvement projects
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said:
”I am very concerned and disappointed with Network Rail’s latest programme assessment for Scotland, which identifies significant risk of not meeting previously committed delivery milestones and increasing cost estimates.
"Of particular concern, Network Rail has informed Transport Scotland that the Edinburgh-Glasgow line will not be running electric services until July 2017. This is seven months later than scheduled and seven months later than they advised ministers two months ago. This will also increase the cost of the project beyond the previous £742 million estimate. Network Rail’s cost estimates for a number of other major projects which are at earlier stages of delivery have also increased. Moreover, progress on other projects has also been slower than expected.
“I am not prepared to simply accept the long-term cost implications, nor the revised programmes that Network Rail have set out. I will also be doing everything possible to ensure that Network Rail deliver the full programme in Scotland by March 2019 and without any extra funding from the Scottish Government.
“Whilst there is always risk in the delivery of major construction projects, Network Rail have fallen short of their previous standards, most recently exemplified by the Borders Railway, which was delivered on-time and on-budget. In the case of EGIP, there is evidence of poor management of contractors; and across the programme there are systemic issues including poor planning and cost estimation and a failure to properly incorporate well established regulations into their project plans.
“On the Edinburgh-Glasgow line, passengers will be rightly frustrated that despite enduring longer journeys during construction, some electric services will not be starting this December as previously planned. However the new fleet of faster, longer, greener electric Class 385 trains is still on schedule and will arrive in September 2017, with a full electric service on the route from December 2017 as planned.
“Following their reclassification as a central government body in 2014, Network Rail’s direct accountability is now to the UK Government although their performance continues to be monitored by the industry regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). The ORR, has today identified a number of weaknesses in Network Rail’s project delivery and I welcome the steps they have set out to respond to this and their intention to hold Network Rail to account. I also recognise that Network Rail are putting in place changes to improve planning and delivery. However I intend to go further and seek far deeper levels of assurance.
“To that end, I have instructed Transport Scotland officials to undertake an intensive review of the programme, and the Scottish Futures Trust will provide an additional assurance role to this review. This will review the governance structures for the delivery of major rail projects and ensure that all necessary steps are taken to deliver these projects efficiently and as early as possible.
"This work is expected to conclude in September. At that point, subject to agreement from the Convenor, it is my intention to bring senior Network Rail officials before the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee to set out clearly when they will deliver the promised improvements, how much they will cost, and what they are doing to address both my own concerns and those identified by the ORR. I will also make myself available to Parliament to answer any questions from members and I have also asked that Network Rail make themselves available to provide technical briefings as necessary.
“This government is investing over £5 billion to 2019 to revolutionise a rail industry that has been badly neglected over previous decades. Together with Network Rail and ScotRail, we have already delivered the longest stretch of new railway seen in the UK for over 100 years, achieved the electrification of several key routes across the country and are undertaking a comprehensive programme of on-train refurbishments which are enhancing the passenger experience. Improvements like these are part of the reason why Scotland’s railways are more popular than ever, and carrying more people than ever. I am committed to delivering future improvements that will mean significant benefits for rail users, whilst future-proofing our railways for decades to come.”
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