The Sheffield to Rotherham tram-train scheme will see vehicles run across the local tramway and the national rail network for the first time in the UK. In May 2012, the Department for Transport (the Department) approved a pilot project to test the costs and operational issues of this new technology, and consider the potential to roll-out similar schemes across other cities in the UK. However, Network Rail’s works to modify the national rail network have encountered unacceptable cost increases and delays. It seriously underestimated the scale and complexity of the works, and failed to factor in the risks involved in delivering new technology. These are the same failings that we saw in the Department’s handling of the Great Western Railway modernisation programme. The Department failed to scrutinise or challenge Network Rail’s plans at the outset and then did not challenge hard enough as Network Rail’s costs rose from an initial budget of £15 million to £75.1 million. Neither the Department nor Network Rail have properly quantified the benefits expected from the project, so decisions to go ahead and continue were made without knowing if it provides taxpayers with value for money. Whilst Network Rail now has a revised plan to complete the works, albeit two-and-half years behind schedule, we are concerned that the project will not achieve the wider benefits that were originally intended. Network Rail and the Department have not yet done enough to learn the lessons from the pilot project, including whether the technology is useable elsewhere and calculating the likely costs of developing new tram-train schemes. There are wider lessons from this project for how the Department and Network Rail plan wider projects.
13 December 2017