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Costs rocket on StirlingKincardine rail project

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SLOW SCOTTISH Executive decision making and changes to railway standards are being blamed for a £27.6M cost overrun on the Stirling-AlloaKincardine railway, project manager Tara Whitworth said this week.

The project cost has increased from £37M to £64.6M since 2003 and includes the cost of a year's delay to the programme, changes in the scope of works, increases in steel prices and inflation.

Whitworth, who is Jacobs Babtie technical director, said that the project had 'been in limbo for 12 months' while staff waited for the Scottish Executive to approve extra funding.

But an Executive spokesperson denied this. She said, 'To say the project's been in limbo is wrong - additional work has been carried out over the past year'.

The project involves revitalising 21km of disused and abandoned railway to form a direct passenger link between Alloa and Kincardine via Stirling.

Much of the delay has been attributed to lengthy investigation of shallow mines running alongside the route. Previous project cost estimates had been based on grouting up mines in specifi locations according to the standards dictated by Railtrack, but these standards changed when Railtrack became Network Rail.

'Network Rail is more risk averse. Where we were going to grout in specific key locations, we are now having to do the whole lot between Alloa and Kincardine, ' said Whitworth.

'Safety and signalling standards have also changed so now the six level crossings have to be [more costly] manually-operated barriers with CCTV instead of automatic half-barriers, ' she explained.

The cost hike also includes anticipated compensation claims arising from compulsory land purchases. It is understood that drinks company Diageo has already lodged a claim for £6.5M for losing a warehouse on the route.

Work on site is expected to begin on 26 September.

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