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Efficiency fears trigger rail programme review

Contractors have insisted they remain ready to deliver “world class” projects after senior Network Rail and government figures suggested the industry had failed to perform as hoped on rail works.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin last week ordered a review of the £38.5bn investment programme planned by Network Rail between April 2014 and March 2019. He was responding to a series of delays and missed targets which have hit railway projects.

McLoughlin called a halt to electrification work in the Midlands, and on the Trans-Pennine route between Leeds and Manchester, to force Network Rail to focus its efforts on getting the Great Western Line electrification right.

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne and transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin both suggested the construction industry had failed to meet the grade on control period five (CP5) works.

But Civil Engineering Contractors Association chief executive Alasdair Reisner said: “This substantial investment in our rail network comes at a time when our industry is primed to deliver world-class infrastructure. As an industry, we need to work with Network Rail to help it overcome thesechallenges, and continue the momentum of investing in UK rail.”

Reisner called for a big push to ensure as much of the planned programme of works as possible could be carried out within the five-year period.

“The CP5 programme was developed in response to record levels of demand on the network. This is not something that looks set to diminish,” he said.

“As such, it is vital that all of the projects planned for CP5 are delivered as promptly as possible.

“While it may be necessary to shift some works into the next control period, every effort must be made to ensure they are ready for delivery in 2019. A failure to do this will have a crippling impact on capacity for some of the UK’s vital rail lines.”

Carne said that the targets Network Rail signed up to during CP5 were “highly ambitious. Based on historic improvements from a low base, we were overly optimistic about the capacity of our company and our supplier base to step up several gears in order to achieve the plan,” he said.

Meanwhile McLoughlin said: “Important aspects of Network Rail’s investment programme are costing more and taking longer. Electrification is difficult. The UK supply chain for the complex signalling works needs to be stronger. Construction rates have been slow.”

 

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