Great Western Railway Upgrade Late and £2.1bn Over Budget

By Gary Cutlack on at

The National Audit Office has painted a grim picture of the project to upgrade the Great Western railway route, calculating that the total cost of the scheme is likely to top out at £5.58 billion -- £2.1 billion more than it was projected to cost as recently as 2013.

This means that less of it might end up being electrified to save money, with something that sounds as mundane as electrifying the stretch of line between Maidenhead and Cardiff now said to cost a staggering £2.8 billion, or 70 per cent more than initially budgeted for. And instead of all-electric trains, we now need to buy hybrids with diesel engines as well to fill in the electrification gaps.

The NAO's gone really quite off on one at Network Rail, laying most of the blame for this on the doorstep of its Portakabin, saying: "Network Rail’s 2014 cost estimate was unrealistic. It was too optimistic about the productivity of new technology. It underestimated how many bridges it would need to rebuild or modify and also the time and therefore costs needed to obtain planning permission and other consents for some works. Failings in Network Rail’s approach to planning and delivering the infrastructure programme further increased costs."

Hence some passengers might end up having to wait an additional two years before any benefit from the modernisation trickles down to their stations and carriages. [NAO via BBC]

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