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MPs call for better judgement of infrastructure projects

MPs have lavished praise on the management of the £14.8bn Crossrail scheme – but urged the government to improve its appraisal process for infrastructure projects.   

The cross-party Public Accounts Committee described the handling of the major trans-London rail scheme as “textbook”.

However, the panel of MPs also said that many of the benefits of the scheme were left out at appraisal stage, with the decision making process not made clear.

Committee member Richard Bacon MP said this morning: “Major, complex infrastructure projects are notoriously difficult to deliver on time and in budget. With Crossrail we see a textbook example of how to get things right.

“The joint sponsors of the Crossrail programme – the Department for Transport and Transport for London – are working well with delivery organisation Crossrail Ltd to deliver the programme, which at present is broadly on schedule and being delivered within budget.”

He added: “There are also lessons to be learned about how transport projects are appraised. Benefit-cost ratios are used that do not capture the full benefits, and the case for investment is understated.

“With Crossrail, the ratio was around 2:1, or medium value for money. However, with wider economic benefits, such as increased productivity from greater clustering of firms and labour market effects, it was more like 3:1. The full rationale for proceeding with Crossrail was not made clear.”

Crossrail reached the halfway point earlier this year. Tunnelling work is due for completion this year before the project enters its crucial systems and fit out phase, with trains due to start running  in 2018.


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