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Atkins defends Chiltern railway design after delays row

Consultant Atkins this week defended the quality of its designs for the Chiltern railway following criticisms that it had contributed to delays on the £250M scheme.

Network Rail took control of the scheme’s project management on 2 March, after a report by consultant Halcrow, commissioned by the Office of Rail Regulation, found that there was “zero probability” of achieving the planned completion date of 8 May (NCE 10 March).

The report states that in June 2010 Network Rail raised concerns to Chiltern Railways that “the quality of the designs being submitted are significantly slowing down approval times by Network Rail, they are increasing the workload of Network Rail engineers and are creating significant amounts of re-work and re-review that otherwise would not occur”.

Responding to the report, a spokesman for Atkins said that such responses were “normal”.

“This is a large and technically complex line upgrade with many companies working in partnership. It is normal for there to be an iterative process during the development of final designs and this project is no different,” he said.

“It is normal for there to be an iterative process during the development of final designs and this project is no different”


Chiltern Railways remains sponsor for the scheme despite Network Rail’s increased role.

Chiltern Railways chairman Adrian Shooter has said that Chiltern’s project director retired at the end of January, and was replaced by a Network Rail employee who reports to a governance panel chaired by Chiltern Railways and including senior Network Rail staff.

The scheme is funded by a Network Rail borrowing to which Chiltern is given access. This will be repaid by Chiltern and its successor franchises over 30 years, but any increase in costs is underwritten by Chiltern Railways owner German state railway Deutsche Bahn.

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