die belebende Bedenkung

Around of a pause for Patrick

leave a comment »

BBC: 'Network Rail upgrade delayed by government'

BBC: ‘Network Rail upgrade delayed by government’

On 25 June transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced changes to the governance of Network Rail, and ‘pausing’ of electrification works on Transpennine North and the Midland Main Line.

[House of Commons, Thursday 25 June 2015]

[The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin):] With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement about Network Rail following today’s publication of its annual report.

In September 2014, Network Rail was reclassified as a public body as result of an accounting decision by the Office for National Statistics. Since then the Government have had greater direct oversight of the company. I want to report to the House on Network Rail’s performance and the actions that I am taking to hold it to account.

Some things are working well. Our railways are carrying more passengers than ever before, and journeys have more than doubled since privatisation — they went up on average by 4.2% in the last year alone. Safety has improved, and the reliability of assets on the railways is up. Network Rail reopened the line at Dawlish after the horrendous storms in the time expected. It has opened a new station at Reading ahead of schedule and under budget, and a modernised Birmingham New Street complex will be fully open later this year.

I do not pretend that everything is perfect, however, because it is not. Where performance has fallen below the standards I expect, I want it sorted out. What we saw at Kings Cross at Christmas and at London Bridge earlier this year was unacceptable, and I said so at the time. Since then, Network Rail has demonstrated that it has learned those lessons. I pay tribute to the significant programmes of work it delivered over Easter and the May day bank holidays, but to improve performance we need to invest and we need good management. The truth is that much of this work should have been done decades ago. Successive Governments failed to invest the sums necessary in our rail network, and that is why we find ourselves in the current situation.

When faced with a choice between building the infrastructure our country needs and our railway becoming a brake on growth and opportunity, the Government choose to invest for the future, in projects such as Crossrail in London and HS2. In 2012, the Government set out the most ambitious rail investment programme since the Victorians: a £38 billion programme on enhancing, operating and maintaining the current network. That means hard work and good design; and thousands of people working night after night, sometimes in very difficult conditions. On the 216 miles of the Great Western line alone, Network Rail needs to alter about 170 bridges, lower parts of the track bed, install 14,000 masts of overhead line equipment and electrify parts of the railway constructed by Brunel in the 1830s, so that new British-built fast trains can speed up services and provide more seats and services. Members and their constituents want these improvements, and I am determined that they will happen.

In parts of this programme, Network Rail’s performance has not been good enough. Already, the chief executive and the board are responding. Since joining Network Rail in 2014, the chief executive Mark Carne has reviewed the organisation’s structure, performance and accountability. He has strengthened his team and he has a structure for improvement. I want to see him drive that forward, but there are still challenges. Important aspects of Network Rail’s investment programme are costing more and taking longer: electrification is difficult; the UK supply chain for complex signalling works needs to be stronger; construction rates have been slow; and it has taken longer than expected to obtain planning consents from some local authorities. That is no excuse, however. All those problems could and should have been foreseen by Network Rail, so I want to inform the House of the action I am taking to reset the programme and get it back on track.

First, none of Network Rail’s executive directors will receive a bonus for the past year. The current Chairman, Mr Richard Parry-Jones, is stepping down. His replacement will be the current transport commissioner in London, Sir Peter Hendy, someone of huge experience who helped to keep London moving during the Olympics. I am asking him to develop proposals, by autumn, for how the rail upgrade programme will be carried out. Secondly, I am appointing Richard Brown as a special director of Network Rail with immediate effect. He will update me, and report directly to me, on progress. Thirdly, I intend to simplify Network Rail’s governance by ending the role of the public members. I thank them for their commitment, but the reclassification of Network Rail has changed the organisation’s accountability. Fourthly, it is important that we understand what can be done better in future investment programmes. I have therefore asked Dame Colette Bowe, an experienced economist and regulator, to look at lessons learned and to make recommendations for better investment planning in future. I will publish her report in the autumn.

I know that Members on both sides of the House value the improvements that are planned to the railway in their area. Network Rail’s spending should stay within its funding allowance. Electrification of the Great Western line is a top priority and I want Network Rail to concentrate its efforts on getting that right. On the midland main line, better services can be delivered through works such as speed improvement. Electrification will be paused: I want it to be done and done well; it will be part of our future plans for the route.

Meanwhile, the next franchise for the trans-Pennine route between Leeds and Manchester will bring modern trains and additional capacity. Current work on electrification will be paused, because we need to be much more ambitious for that route, building a powerhouse for the north with a fast, high capacity trans-Pennine electric route. We are working with businesses and cities in the north to make that happen. We have seen electric trains introduced this year between Liverpool and Manchester, and between Liverpool and Wigan, and the work that will see them spread to Bolton and Blackpool is under way.

In the south-east, Crossrail and Thameslink are well under way. In Anglia, we will bring about modern, faster trains to Ipswich and Norwich in the next franchise. For passengers in the south-west, the new contract with First Great Western will provide significant extra capacity. I hope to be able to announce news on further new trains for the region soon.

We will keep commuter rail fares capped in real terms for the whole of this Parliament. People’s earnings will rise more quickly than rail fares—the first time that this has happened since 2002. Passengers want a railway that is better, faster and more reliable than today. Powered by a huge increase in investment and ambition right across the country, that is what they will get. I commend the statement to the House.

[House of Commons, Thursday 25 June 2015]

[Michael Dugher (Barnsley East) (Labour):] I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement.Let us be absolutely clear: the Government’s total failure to deliver a fit-for-purpose railway has today been completely and damningly exposed. First, the publication of the latest national rail passenger survey — I note the Secretary of State did not mention it—shows that passenger satisfaction has dropped once again. Now we have the Secretary of State announcing that vital investment projects, such as electrification of the midland main line, which he promised to deliver, are being shelved due to his repeated failure to get a grip of Network Rail. The electrification of the trans-Pennine express railway line between Manchester, Leeds and York has also been shelved—so much for the northern powerhouse — and we remain concerned about the future of the electrification of the Great Western line.

The Secretary of State spent the election campaign repeating promises that he knew he would break after the election. That is what has been revealed today. The truth is that passengers have had to endure a catalogue of failure on our railways by Ministers since 2010. There was the Christmas rail chaos, which the Secretary of State referred to, although he neglected to mention that Ministers had been warned about that and failed to act. While delusional Ministers talk about “fair fares” and “comfortable commuting” — which is a world away from the misery for commuters at London Bridge — there have been inflation-busting fare rises of on average more than 20%. We have also seen the collapse of the west coast franchise competition, which cost the taxpayer £50 million. Ministers may try today to shift all the blame to Network Rail, but this happened on the Government’s watch and the responsibility for the mess lays squarely with the Government.

Let me turn to a number of specific questions. Will the Secretary of State confirm that when the Government placed the development of key Network Rail projects on hold for up to two years after the 2010 election, important preparation work was not undertaken, and therefore, as the rail regulator has said, they committed to the projects in 2012 based on “limited development work”? We know that Network Rail started to put together a list of projects that would be axed back in November. Why has it taken so long for the Government to reveal them to the House and to be honest with the travelling public? Crucially, can the Secretary of State confirm that he received a report on 1 September last year on the state of those programmes from Network Rail, his Department and the regulator? He has refused to publish it. Why did he sit on the report and pretend to the public that everything was fine until after the election?

Labour first raised the issue of delays to the Great Western project in the House more than a year ago. Why has it taken so long for the Government to admit that there were fundamental problems with the project? Why did the Secretary of State not listen to the Transport Select Committee six months ago when it warned that key rail enhancement projects had “been announced by Ministers without Network Rail having a clear estimate of what the projects will cost, leading to uncertainty about whether the projects will be delivered on time, or at all”?

Why did he not raise the alarm when the estimated cost of electrifying the midland main line rose from £250 million to £540 million and then to £1.3 billion; or when the cost estimates for Great Western electrification rose from £548 million to £930 million and then to £1.7 billion?

Just two weeks ago, the Secretary of State refused to answer my questions about the need to tackle the failures at Network Rail and whether he was planning changes to Network Rail. Will he explain why he has dithered for so long when he has had the power to exert more ministerial responsibility over Network Rail, including by appointing a special director, since September last year?

The Opposition have warned time and again that fundamental change in how our railways are run is needed, that Ministers need to get a grip, that passengers should have a proper voice and that more public control is needed. We welcome the appointment of Sir Peter Hendy as chairman of Network Rail, and we will look carefully at some of the other announcements that the Government have made.

The news today exposes a catalogue of failure by Ministers, and it deals a fatal blow to the Government’s claim that they are delivering a better railway for passengers. Is it not clear that the Government’s real legacy is one of rail fare hikes, plummeting passenger satisfaction, ongoing disruptions and delays, major projects running years behind schedule, promises of vital investment betrayed, and a railway that is not fit for purpose, and all the while out-of-touch Ministers sat in Whitehall overseeing a complete and utter shambles?

[Mr McLoughlin:] It is true that I have been Transport Secretary for two and a half years. Despite the catalogue of terror that the hon. Gentleman has outlined, over those two and a half years there have been only two occasions on which the Opposition have chosen to debate transport on Opposition days. One was a day after I was appointed, and the other was on the day that the hon. Gentleman’s predecessor was sacked as shadow Transport Secretary. With regard to their warning us and wanting the subject lifted up the political agenda, we have heard nothing from the Opposition, because they are truly embarrassed by their record, whereas we have invested in the railways, lifted them and given encouragement to the railway industry.

Today I have made no cuts whatever to the rail investment strategy — the largest rail investment strategy that has ever taken place. The amount of money invested is exactly the same as it was last week—the budget within which the strategy has to be delivered. I will take no lessons from a Labour party that in 13 years electrified 10 miles of railway lines; we have electrified more this year than it did in all that time. Then there is the £895 million project to rebuild the railways around Reading and to remove major bottlenecks; the £750 million transformation and upgrade of Birmingham New Street station; the refurbishment of Nottingham station, with all the investment going into it. There has been more investment in Nottingham in the last five years than was seen in the 13 years of the last Labour Government. Then there is the new station built at Wakefield; the completed Ipswich Chord and the Doncaster Chord; phase 1 of the £6.5 billion Thameslink project; the completion of Crossrail tunnelling. I could go on a lot more, Mr Speaker. I will take no lectures. I am determined to get on top of, and see the delivery of, those programmes, which are so important for our constituents.

[Northern powercut: has the Tories’ rail revamp reached the end of the line?, Helen Pidd, The Guardian, Thursday 25 June 2015]

[Mr McLoughlin’s] statement to parliament was unclear. He made no promises about the Midlands mainline, but said the government needed to be “much more ambitious” about the TransPennine service. A “fast, high-capacity TransPennine electric route” would be built, he suggested, as part of the “powerhouse for the north”.

It was all a bit vague. No how or when. No firm financial commitment. Just a claim that “We are working with businesses and cities in the north to make that happen.”

[…] Nick Kingsley, managing editor of Railway Gazette, said McLoughlin may actually be making a very sensible decision for the long term.

He said: “Electrification alone doesn’t create much extra capacity. To create the capacity and shorten journey times, really you have to address other, bigger issues, such as adding new track and new signalling. Electrification was never really a gamechanger for connectivity and capacity.

“Obviously we need to see the details, but it may be a wise decision to skip a tricky project, which potentially had limited effect, in favour of one big bang which could deliver the speeds and capacity needed for the future.”

What conclusions might be drawn?

  1. Great Western wiring has eaten the entire budget for Midland wiring (and then some); no-one really knows why.
  2. No-one has much idea of what Midland electrification is supposed to achieve.
  3. Since its announcement in November 2011, no progress has been made in defining what Transpennine rail modernisation should encompass.
  4. Network Rail remains in a state of extreme dysfunction.

Written by beleben

June 26, 2015 at 8:45 am

Posted in Politics, Railways

Tagged with

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: