Costs for a pioneering train-tram scheme have rocketed by 401% to reach £75M, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).
In 2012 the Department for Transport (DfT) and Network Rail approved plans for the UK’s first pilot train-tram scheme in Yorkshire, at a cost of £15M and with a completion date of December 2015. That figure has grown substantially to reach £75.1M and the project will not finish until May 2018, more than two years later.
A report from the NAO reveals the DfT nearly cancelled the project twice due to cost increases and delays to the scheme, which tests trains running on rail and tram lines between Sheffield and Rotherham.
Carillion was involved in early design work and won the construction contract to undertake the infrastructure works.
The initial business case for the scheme relied on benefits for local users, such as reduced journey times. But the benefit-cost ratio of 1.0 fell into the DfT’s low value for money category, and that ratio has since fallen to 0.31.
Network Rail called the Yorkshire trial “complex and challenging”.
“Sheffield to Rotherham tram-train is an ambitious pilot, a UK first, that will bring new travel choices to people of South Yorkshire when services begin in 2018. The project continues to be complex and challenging but will deliver real benefits for thousands of daily commuters,” said Network Rail London north eastern and East Midlands route managing director Rob McIntosh.
“Costs and timescales have moved as the project itself has grown in scope and complexity and has had to incorporate more significant infrastructure changes than originally planned. Good progress is being made and a new project team is now in place and driving the scheme to its conclusion.”
In 2015 the DfT approved plans for 160m of new track to link up train and tram networks, which has now been installed. Several train-tram platforms have been built, while overhead power systems will soon be completed.
The project has been in discussion for almost 10 years. In 2012, Network Rail had estimated the scheme could cost £18.7M but the figure was reduced to £15M as it expected to make efficiency savings.
But by November 2014, Network Rail had revised its cost estimate up 199% to £44.9M, due to extra electrification work. The DfT said the project should continue as cancelling it would cause reputational damage. It agreed capped funding of £45.3M.
In June 2016 Network Rail said cost forecasts had risen by £25M as works proved to be more complex than anticipated during the design stage. The DfT’s Rail Investment Board recommended stopping the project in July last year, as enough had been learnt from the scheme to apply to other train-tram projects in the UK.
However, Network Rail agreed to meet the funding shortfall by re-allocating £21.9M from its wider enhancement programme. The revised cost for the scheme is now £75.1M.