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Great Western rail electrification bill could reach £2.8bn

The cost of electrifying the Great Western railway line between South Wales and London could reach £2.8bn, according to Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne.

Speaking to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee yesterday, Carne confirmed that the estimated cost had risen from £874M at the beginning of 2013 to £1.6bn last September and the latest figure was now between £2.5bn and £2.8bn.

He told the committee: “Such a material increase in cost is a significant disappointment to me and to my company and most importantly to tax payers and to the millions of passengers that are going to benefit from this upgrade to the railway when it’s completed.”

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “The Great Western Electrification Programme will transform Brunel’s railway to enable passengers and those who live close to the railway line to benefit from a new fleet of longer, faster, quieter and greener electric trains. 

“Electrifying the Great Western Mainline is an extremely complex task that is being delivered while continuing to run an operational railway. It also involves a new design of overhead line equipment, which has been created to be the safest, most reliable and easiest-maintained system ever seen on a UK railway. This is more expensive in the short-term but far better in the long-term both for passengers and the taxpayer. 

“In bringing our Victorian railway into the 21st century, we are working closely with lineside neighbours and communities across a huge range of issues. This has also increased our costs, but we care about our neighbours and want to minimise any disruption to them.”

The Committee is looking at the 2014-2019 rail investment programme.

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