||Government publication, National government publication
|All Authors / Contributors:
Great Britain. National Audit Office.
||"HC22 Session 2006-2007; 22 November 2006."
||47 pages : illustrations ; 30 cm.
||House of Commons paper, 2006/07, no. 22
||report by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
This NAO report examines how effectively the Strategic Rail Authority/Department for Transport and Network Rail turned around the West Coast programme between 2002 and 2006 in terms of delivering outputs and expected outcomes in line with the schedule and targets set by the government and set out in the West Coast Main Line Strategy of June 2003. Three areas were examined in detail: how the Strategic Rail Authority/Department of Transport and Network Rail addressed the weaknesses in programme management before 2002 to achieve delivery to schedule; whether costs have been brought under control; whether the programme is delivering its anticipated benefits. A number of findings and conclusions have been set out, including: that the SRA and Network Rail did turn around the programme through an industry-supported strategy, reducing technology risk through reliance on conventional signalling for most of the upgrade; there were some implementation problems in two areas, axle counters and computer-based interlocking signalling, which resulted in an increase in costs; in general, Network Rail's control of costs has improved, but an analysis of its reported and forecast expenditure shows a final programme spend of £8.6 billion, with an overspend of around £300 million; for renewal work on the west coast route, Network Rail is within its overall funding allowance and on course to achieve 70% of the £940 million cost efficiencies assumed by the rail Regulator; at present the Strategic Rail Authority provides subsidies on an annual basis to Virgin West Coast of £590 million in 2005-06 period, this amount represents a payment needed to maintain train services and is outside the £8.6 billion; the project has delivered journey time improvements, with punctuality and train reliability on the West Coast having improved since 2005; in the 2005-06 period, passenger journeys on Virgin West Coast grew by over 20%, and the remaining work on the programme to 2009 will increase passenger train and freight capacity, but the consensus in the rail industry is that around 2015 to 2020, the line will have insufficient capacity to sustain current levels of growth in passenger and freight traffic; the overall strategy has delivered passenger benefits from a modernised track, but value for money for the programme has not been maximised. The report sets out a number of recommendations, including: that the Department in future should model and appraise costs and benefits for different options for the timing of delivery of the project; that the Department and the Office of Rail Regulation should further develop standard definitions for costs for different stages and elements of transport projects; where projects propose new technology at significant cost, the Department and ORR should ensure that Network Rail draws up a supporting business case, addressing costs, benefits and possible challenges along with a supporting implementation and maintenance strategy; the ORR should ensure Network Rail progresses its plans and adopts best practice strategy, and this approach should include a company-wide strategy that addresses whole life costs in its investment appraisal/project business cases, along with improved recording of maintenance and renewals costs for its equipment.