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The difference in affordability

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In March 2017, the Secretary of State for Transport and the Chancellor of the Exchequer agreed “a package of cancellations and deferrals” from Network Rail’s enhancements portfolio, including the North of Kettering [NoK] and Oxenholme to Windermere electrification projects, the National Audit Office reported on 29 March.

According to the report, ‘Investigation into the Department for Transport’s decision to cancel three rail electrification projects’, Cardiff to Swansea electrification was in effect personally cancelled by the Prime Minister Theresa May.

The cancellations, done for ‘affordability’ reasons, were publicly announced in July 2017, some weeks after the general election. The cost of these projects was chicken feed compared to HS2, but very different affordability considerations seem to apply to that scheme.

'Three cancelled rail electrification schemes', NAO, March 2018

[NAO]

[8]
It is too early to tell the extent to which the Department will be able to deliver the benefits of electrification without electrifying the three routes. The Department still expects to deliver the majority of promised passenger benefits through planned infrastructure works and replacing existing trains. It will still introduce new electric trains to operate services between London and Corby on the Midland Main Line.

It will now use bi-mode trains to operate services on the Great Western Main Line and long-distance services on the Midland Main Line. Although bi-mode trains allow greater flexibility by being able to run on electrified and non-electrified lines, there are some disadvantages, such as increased track damage and higher energy costs, which the Department will need to take into account. For Oxenholme to Windermere the Department had interim plans to use bi-mode trains and proposes to replace existing trains with new diesel trains. It has also asked the operator to explore the use of alternative fuel trains on the route.

The Department has not yet fully costed the environmental and future financial implications of its decision on Midland Main Line and Oxenholme to Windermere. It is uncertain about how much the new trains will cost, but in October 2017 the Secretary of State told the Transport Select Committee that completing electrification would “be more expensive” than buying other trains.

[9]
In the case of Midland Main Line, bi-mode trains with the required speed and acceleration did not exist when the Secretary of State made his decision. When the Secretary of State made his announcement in July 2017, he specified that the next operator for the East Midlands franchise would deliver new bi-mode trains
from 2022. The Department expects journey times with bi-mode trains to be only one minute slower between London and Sheffield than they would have been with fully electric trains.

However, when the Secretary of State decided to cancel the project in March 2017, the Department had advised him that bi-mode rolling stock of the required speed and acceleration to meet the timetable of the route did not currently exist. The Department told us that, although it did not include it in its written advice, it expected that manufacturers would be able to develop a bi-mode train that would deliver service improvements on Midland Main Line.

NAO report, benefit cost assessments for the three cancelled rail electrification schemes

NAO gave the headline saving from NoK cancellation as around £900 million, but the underlying situation is more complicated. Last year, electrification of the track into Sheffield Midland from north Derbyshire, for HS2, was costed at around £250 million.

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Written by beleben

March 30, 2018 at 2:49 pm

One Response

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  1. The politicians will inevitably be blamed for this, but the die was effectively cast by the unbelievable cost overruns of the Great Western electrification which destroyed the BCR of the project and undermined the case for further wiring of this kind. No politician of any party could blithely sanction further electrification projects under such circumstances. And as for HS2, I agree that it seems to plough ahead regardless of commercial logic, but that’s because “it’s all about capacity and connectivity”….. Yup…….

    Moomo

    April 15, 2018 at 8:13 am


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