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NCE Live News Updates Tuesday 25 February: Growth money remains unspent; explosion at south London station

Spending watchdog says government sitting on growth funding money; explosion causes south London commuter chaos.

5pm: Commuter chaos contiunes after explosion at south London station

Commuter chaos continues this afternoon following an explosion this morning at Sutton railway station in south London. Network Rail engineers have been on site all day replacing over a 1km of cable after an electrical fault caused an explosion beneath one of the station’s four platforms.

The station had to be evacuated and no trains ran all morning. The incident caused travel chaos across south London with no trains able to pass through the station and one train stuck between Sutton and Carshalton for three hours.

The line - the main Line between London and Dorking - is now open but rail operators Southern and First Capital Connect are operating a limited services.

3.30pm: Crossrail’s eighth tunnel boring machine launches in east London

Tunnel Boring Machine Ellie has begun her journey from Pudding Mill Lane to Stepney Green in London’s East End.

Ellie is the eighth Crossrail tunnelling machine to be launched and the last to be inaugurated. She broke ground a stone’s throw from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and will dive up to 30m below ground on her 2.7km journey to Stepney Green, before breaking into one of Europe’s largest mined caverns later this year. The tunnel will form part of Crossrail’s north east spur from Whitechapel to Shenfield in Essex.

Her sister machine, Jessica, completed the journey from Pudding Mill Lane to Stepney Green on 3 February and in the coming weeks will be taken to Limmo Peninsula near Canning Town in east London, where she will begin Crossrail’s last tunnel drive towards Victoria Dock Portal.


3pm: Survey shows confidence flagging in UK renewables as Government opposes 2030 targets

Jpan has replaced the UK in fourth place in a quarterly ranking of 40 countries on the attractiveness of their renewable energy investment and deployment opportunities, based on a number of macro, energy market and technology-specific indicators.

Japan has moved ahead of the UK into fourth place in Ernst & Young’s ranking thanks to its rapidly growing solar markets, thriving offshore sector and proactivity in addressing infrastructure barriers. The UK’s fall was driven by continued political infighting and mixed policy measures. A series of offshore wind project cancellations also helped take it down to fifth place. The US, China and Germany remained in the top three places.

Renewable Energy Association chief executive Nina Skorupska said it was not surprising to see the UK slip a place in the rankings. “Investors are already looking at projects post-2020 but they have no clear steer from the EU or the UK Government that they see a major role for renewables once the existing 2020 targets are met,” she said. “Setting binding renewables targets for Member States will boost investor confidence, bring down capital costs faster and create jobs for British businesses.”

11am: Six architects have been shortlisted in a competition to help design a revived Crystal Palace.

Plans to invest £500M in rebuilding the Crystal Palace and restoring the surrounding public park were announced in October 2013 by ZhongRong Group, with the support of the London Mayor’s office and Bromley Council.

A selection panel narrowed the list from 40 practices to the following six: David Chipperfield Architects, Grimshaw, Haworth Tompkins Architects, Marks Barfield Architects, Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners and Zaha Hadid Architects with Anish Kapoor

Up to three teams from this shortlist will be invited to prepare initial concept designs in the final competition stage. The selected architect, due to be appointed in the summer, will work closely with lead consultant designer Arup.

The selection panel includes the ZhongRong Group; Royal Institute of British Architects president Stephen Hodder; New London Architecture chair Peter Murray; London Borough of Bromley councillor, Peter Morgan; Hank Dittmar; Sir Tim Smit; Sir John Sorrell ; and, deputy mayor of London, Ric Blakeway. The selection process is being run by Colander Associates.

London mayor Boris Johnson said: “This is a stellar line-up of talent demonstrating the world-wide interest in this unique and challenging project. The rebuild of the Crystal Palace is set to produce an extraordinary new landmark for the capital, which will support the rebirth of this historic park and catalyse jobs and growth in the local area.”


10am: Government faces a “significant challenge” to spend Regional Growth Fund quickly enough this year, the public spending watchdog said today.

The National Audit Office said in a report that the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills had improved their governance of the Regional Growth Fund and recognised they had recruited more skilled staff.

“Despite this, the departments face a significant challenge, particularly in 2014/15 where the budget is £1.4bn, to spend money as quickly as originally expected,” it said. “There is still a significant amount of public money to allocate through the fund.

The government established the fund in June 2010 to encourage private sector enterprise by providing support for projects with significant potential for economic growth. To date £492M has been spent, although most of the money unspent.

Some £917M of the £2.6bn funding allocated in the first four bidding rounds had been paid out by the end of December 2013. But of this amount, £425M is being held by intermediaries, it said.

Today’s report finds that, following concern by the Public Accounts Committee that the cost benefit threshold for projects had been set at too low a level, the departments have introduced a revised expectation that the ratio of benefits to costs should be at least 2:1 before final offer letters are signed.

Contractors urged the government to spend the money to shore up economic recovery.

Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Ceca) director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner said: “This money could be creating growth in England’s regions through infrastructure investment.

“Ceca’s own research has demonstrated that every £1bn of investment in infrastructure increases overall economic activity by £2.84bn.

“We recognise the benefits of the Regional Growth Fund as a means of rebalancing the economy. However, if it is to create jobs and growth, government investment needs to translate quickly into actual projects. It is only by getting spades in the ground that we can get Britain building again and secure an infrastructure-led recovery for the future.”

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