Lil’ Western electrification
As a result of “scrutiny from the Hendy review”, rail minister Paul Maynard has decided to “defer” electrification projects that are part of the ‘£2.8 billion’ programme of work along the Great Western route, between
- Oxford and Didcot Parkway,
- Bristol Parkway and Bristol Temple Meads (Filton Bank),
- Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads (i.e. west of Thingley Junction),
- Slough and Windsor, and
- Twyford and Henley on Thames.
[Written statement to Parliament by Paul Maynard MP, 2016-11-08]
I wish to update the House on the programme of rail investment in the Great Western route and the steps we are taking to ensure this improves services to passengers while getting the best deal for taxpayers.
[…] It is a project unprecedented in scale that is building on and around ageing assets in constant use. This is an ambitious and challenging undertaking, but real progress is being made in delivering it.
[…] We have been clear that there have been difficulties with this programme. These were set out last year in the review of Network Rail’s delivery plan by Sir Peter Hendy. Following the re-planning of work that followed this review, the programme has been placed on a more efficient footing. A key part of this is the ongoing assessment of investment decisions so that passengers and taxpayers get maximum value.
[The deferral] is because we can bring in the benefits expected by passengers – newer trains with more capacity – without requiring costly and disruptive electrification works. This will provide between £146 million to £165 million in this spending period, to be focused on improvements that will deliver additional benefits to passengers. We remain committed to modernising the Great Western mainline and ensuring that passenger benefits are achieved.
This decision underscores the government’s approach to wider rail investment; that passenger outcomes must be delivered in conjunction with achieving the best value from every pound spent.
Is Great Western electrification really ‘a project unprecedented in scale‘? How does it compare in scale with the London Midland electrification of the 1960s, or electrification of the Trans-siberian railway to Vladivostok?
What must be “unprecedented”, is the scale of the incompetence of the politicians and decision-makers responsible for turning ‘Great Western electrification’ into a fiasco. It seems likely that more such ‘deferrals’ will follow, as the government diverts resources to the white-elephant HS2 project, whose ‘£56 billion’ scale and absurdity really is without precedent.