Sheffield MP, Louise Haigh has today warned cuts to the Department for Transport could risk further delays to the electrification of the Midland Mainline reaching Sheffield
Louise expressed her anger that the government sought to conceal their confirmation that the projects to electrify the Midland Mainline and Transpennine Express routes will not be delivered until up to five years later than originally promised by trying to sneak it out late in the afternoon on the same day as the Autumn Statement.
But she said that the projects could yet be dragged even further into the future because of the huge cuts announced in day-to-day spending in the Department of Transport by the Chancellor, saying it will make the chronic shortage of skilled staff needed to complete infrastructure projects – a key factor in the delays already incurred – even worse.
Commenting Louise Haigh, Member of Parliament for Sheffield Heeley said:
“Ministers have cynically tried to hide the confirmation that mainline electrification will take up to 5 years longer to reach Sheffield than originally planned by sneaking out Sir Peter Hendy’s report on the same day as the Spending Review.
“A separate report, also published yesterday, raised ‘deep concerns’ at the process of planning and oversight within the Department for Transport and indicated that this contributed to delays and cost increases on the project as a whole.”
“In this context, it is astonishing that the Government have announced a further 37% cut to the DfT budget - taking the cut in day-to-day spending at the Department to 70% since 2010. This despite warnings from the top Parliamentary committee and the National Audit Office that the shortage of skilled staff after the 2010 Spending Review was affecting their ability to deliver on major projects.
“In light of this and following Ministers’ initial broken promises over rail electrification and ongoing problems at Network Rail, there can be little faith in the Government’s ability to deliver the improvements Sheffield and Yorkshire desperately need, even after further delay.”
1) Sir Peter Hendy review of Network Rail’s investment programme was published on Wednesday [25/11/2015] at 16:30 on Network Rail’s website: http://www.networkrailmediacentre.co.uk/news/largest-investment-in-railways-since-victorian-times-will-continue
2) The report also exposed a £2.3bn black hole in the budget for delivering the government’s rail electrification projects, stating on page 5 that:
“To fund the increased enhancement expenditure, Network Rail will address the funding shortfall by asset divestment totalling around £1.8 billion through divestment of non-core assets. … In addition to the asset sales, DfT has agreed to increase Network Rail’s borrowing limit by £700 million to provide further funding for the enhancement programme.”
3) The report confirms on page 38 that the main cause of increased costs is the electrification programme, the estimated cost of which has gone up from £3.2 billion to £5.5 billion – an increase of 72 per cent.
4) NAO reported in October 2014 on lack of skilled staff at DfT https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Lessons-from-major-rail-infrastructure-programmes.pdf
“The Department needs more programme management capacity and skills. The Department has limited programme management skills for the scale of its investment programme. It has sought to manage its pool of experienced programme managers by rotating senior staff between programmes, putting the most experienced people on the highest risk programmes and appointing experts to do detailed reviews. These actions demonstrate that it has a shortage of skilled staff and this is an issue which we and the Committee of Public Accounts have repeatedly commented upon. The Department also needs to continue to develop the capability of its senior responsible owners and use its experienced staff to build skills and capability so that it has sufficient capacity for the number and scale of programmes for which it is responsible (paragraphs 3.9 to 3.12).”
5) The Liaison Committee reported in November 2013 on overall lack of capacity at DfT – and in particular failure to ensure the department had right skills and capacity after spending review to lead major projects: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmliaisn/884/88402.htm