Tram-trains are vehicles that can operate across both street tramways and the national rail network. The Department for Transport (the Department) identified that tram-trains offer the potential to reduce the cost of transport services and create growth by improving access to city centres. In 2009, it announced a pilot project between Sheffield and Rotherham to test the new technology and assess the potential to extend it to other cities. Network Rail is responsible for modifying the national rail sections of the route, while other organisations are responsible for modifying the tram network and purchasing the tram-train vehicles. The Department has provided the bulk of the funding for Network Rail’s work and for the project as a whole. The original budget for Network Rail’s work was £15 million, which was expected to be completed by the end of 2015. However, Network Rail identified significant cost increases and delays in November 2014 and July 2016. On the first occasion, the Department’s Permanent Secretary allowed the project to proceed and agreed to fund the revised cost of £48.6 million. On the second occasion, the Rail Minister approved the project to continue despite the Permanent Secretary’s recommendation to cancel, but asked Network Rail to meet the funding shortfall. Network Rail now expects the project to cost £75.1 million and to complete its works in May 2018. We pay credit to Clive Betts MP for pursuing this issue and alerting the National Audit Office to his concerns.
13 December 2017