The Sheffield-Rotherham tram-train project has been labelled a failure by influential MPs, who suggested it may only provide lessons for how not to run other schemes.
MPs on the Public Accounts Committee criticised Government mistakes on the costly project, which saw its price tag rise five-fold from £15m to £75m after it ‘encountered unacceptable cost increases and delays’.
The tram-train launched on the tram network in September
The Department for Transport (DfT) failed to scrutinise or challenge Network Rail’s plans and then did not challenge it hard enough as costs rose, the committee concluded.
Although ministers have justified the scheme on the grounds that it would to test the viability of operating tram-trains elsewhere in the UK, MPs said they were 'concerned that the project will not achieve the wider benefits that were originally intended'.
Committee chair Meg Hillier MP said: ‘This project promised great benefits for passengers and, importantly, a potential model for similar schemes in cities such as Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow. Instead the reality is another rail project with all the makings of a “how not to” seminar for senior civil servants.
‘This pilot was trialling technology new to the UK, yet neither Network Rail nor the Department for Transport properly considered the high level of risk and uncertainty.
‘Unrealistic costings went unchallenged, there have been long delays, and it is still not clear how, or even if, the experience of running this pilot will reduce the costs and improve delivery of any future tram-train schemes.’
MPs said the DfT seriously under-estimated the scale and complexity of the works, and failed to factor in the risks involved in delivering new technology.
They added that Network Rail and the DfT have not yet done enough to learn the lessons from the project, including whether the technology is useable elsewhere and calculating the likely costs of developing new tram-train schemes.