The cancellation of rail electrification in south Wales was a “failure of management” by Network Rail, a government committee has been told.
University of South Wales professor of transport Stuart Cole told the Welsh Affairs Committee that work done by the operator was a “desk exercise” that failed to estimate increasing costs. The electrification of the Great Western route between Cardiff and Swansea was scrapped in July this year in favour of bi-mode trains. The Welsh Affairs Committee begin its inquiry into the cancellation of planned rail electrification in South Wales on Tuesday where Cole was speaking.
The Modernising the Great Western railway report published in November last year by the National Audit Office said the increase in cost of £2.1bn since 2013 to £5.58bn, delays of at least 18 to 36 months and changes to the new trains order meant the programme’s value for money had to be reassessed and the extent of electrification reconsidered on the London to Cardiff route.
Cole said: “The original work done by Network Rail…was a desk exercise and therefore quite a number of costs, quite significant costs as it turned out to be,, such as the reconstruction of bridges, were not in much of that initial figure.
He continued: “From a desk exersize to an actual on site analysis of what’s there and we are in some areas going through so quite difficult areas of geology.
“There are underground workings, many of which are not known about because the plans have been lost over the years…once the engineers go there to do their site analysis they start to find elements of the geology and elements of the understructure of the land to be an expensive proposition.”
He said the decision to cancel the electrification could prevent investment in Swansea and west Wales.
He added: ”If an international investor sees that the electrification of the line stops at Cardiff the first question would be why did it stop at Cardiff? Why is the British Government not prepared to invest west of Cardiff? It becomes a criterion in their minds about, are we investing in the right place, if this other investment isn’t taking place?”