Industry voices concern over review ordered by Department for Transport

Network Rail

Major projects in Network Rail’s current £38bn five-year spending plan could be delayed or scrapped as part of a cost-cutting review ordered by the Department for Transport, industry figures fear.

Last week, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin ordered Network Rail to slash the cost of its Control Period 5 programme of works, which runs to 2019, after Network Rail admitted it is falling behind on projects.

Projects already “paused” include the electrification of the Midland Main Line and Trans-Pennine routes, but industry figures told Building other major projects could well be delayed or scrapped.

Control Period 5 projects also include Thameslink in London, and station and line improvement works across all regions of the UK, as well as Crossrail and High Speed 2 enabling projects.

Douglas McCormick, chief executive at Sweett Group, said he was concerned projects scheduled for the end of Control Period 5 “may well be stopped or slipped into the following control period.”

But he said the cost-cutting drive may provide opportunities for consultants: “If there was ever a time for project management and cost management services in Network Rail’s world, it’s now.”

Penny Marshall, director for the Yorkshire & Humber and North-east divisions of the Institute for Civil Engineers, said the “set back” was “disappointing”, adding: “It is important that a new timetable is established as soon as possible so confidence in thenorthern powerhouse vision is maintained.”

Network Rail’s cost-cutting review comes after the Office of Rail and Road last month published a highly critical report, which revealed Network Rail had missed 30 of 84 milestones reviewed, while 77% of overhead line renewals works were behind schedule.

Last week, the rail sector was under further scrutiny when the government finally published a previously suppressed 2012 report by the Department for Transport that had warned HS2 was unaffordable.

In the report, the Department for Transport said: “The costs of this project are so large, and over such a long period, that it will not be able to afford it alongside all its other likely spending commitments.”