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HS2 must learn from Thameslink failures, warn MPs

thameslink train

MPs have said High Speed 2 must learn from Thameslink failures in a new report by the Transport Select Committee. 

Committee chair Meg Hillier has urged the government to apply lessons learnt from the Thameslink programme to future infrastructure projects such as the High Speed 2 redevelopment of Euston Station – a project she described as “more complex than the budget-busting” Thameslink London Bridge project.

“Government must apply what it has learned here to HS2 and future programmes and in response to our report, we urge it to demonstrate how it will do this in practice,” she said.

The report also raised concerns about Network Rail’s understanding of the condition of the network after the discovery of another £900M of maintenance work needed on the Thameslink project.

It said that although the programme had made progress, it was another example of a rail project which had been delayed and would cost the taxpayer more than originally expected.

It went on to say the Department for Transport (DfT) and Network Rail had been slow to appreciate the importance of early planning for how the new services would operate, and how it would organise the rail industry to do this.

It now said there were substantial challenges that would need to be carefully managed to make sure the programme was delivered successfully.

The committee’s warnings echoed that of the National Audit (NAO) report on the Thameslink franchise, published in January this year, and that of the NAO Update on the Thameslink programme report issued last November.

Hillier said: “Passengers and the practicalities of running services should be at the heart of public transport planning.

“On Thameslink these considerations came too late and Government faced a stark choice: delay the roll-out of services or risk additional disruption on the network. Either way, passengers lose out.

“Overall progress on Thameslink compares favourably but the project is not over yet and requires significant additional public funding. Unforeseen but essential maintenance is expected to cost £900M and, if passengers are to get the services they have been promised, the timetable must not slip further.”

The £7bn Thameslink project involves track and signalling upgrades to the route running north to south through central London, to increase capacity by 50% on the line. It also includes the major upgrade of London Bridge Station.

It had been due to be completed in 2015, but the full roll out of the service is now not expected to open until the end of 2018.

Network Rail has been contacted for a response.


Readers' comments (1)

  • The Thameslink Maidstone East to Cambridge service via London Bridge, due to start at the end of 2018, we are now told, will not happen untill the end of 2019, so the programme will stretch even further ahead.

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