Grayling 'less than candid' on rail electrification, MP says


A senior MP has accused Chris Grayling of being ‘less than candid’ with her committee after a National Audit Office (NAO) report disclosed that he exaggerated the known benefits of new trains as an alternative to cancelled electrification projects.

Mr Grayling was found to have held off on making decisions public until after the General Election and to have made claims about the benefits of his alternative options that could not be backed up, not least because the 'technology does not exist'.

The NAO report on the Government’s decision last July to cancel three electrification projects found that it is too early to tell the extent to which the Department for Transport (DfT) will be able to deliver the benefits of electrification without the three schemes.

Lilian Greenwood MP

The report notes that Mr Grayling decided to cancel the projects - the Midland Mainline north of Kettering; the Great Western Main Line between Cardiff and Swansea; and the Lakes Line between Oxenholme and Windermere – in March 2017 but that prime minister Theresa May wanted to see an update of the economic case for the South Wales scheme before deciding whether to drop it.

Although the cancellation of the other two projects had been agreed, this decision was kept under wraps until after the General Election last June.

The NAO also reveals that although Mr Grayling announced all three cancellations in July 2017, ‘he specified that the next operator for the East Midlands franchise would deliver new bi-mode trains from 2022’, when in fact his officials had advised him four months earlier this was unlikely to happen as the 'bi-mode rolling stock of the required speed and acceleration to meet the timetable of the route did not currently exist’.

Although Mr Grayling presented the decision to cancel the three projects as based on the availability of alternatives that would make the inconvenience of major works unnecessary, the report puts the decision in the context of Network Rail’s anticipated shortfall during the 2014–2019 rail investment period.

It notes that the DfT estimated in March 2017 that by cancelling the schemes it would save a maximum of £105m during that period but ‘avert £1,385m of spending’ in the period 2019–2024.

It also points out that the DfT has not yet fully costed the environmental and future financial implications of its decisions on Midland Mainline and Oxenholme to Windermere.

It states: ‘It is uncertain about how much the new trains will cost, but in October 2017 the Secretary of State told the Transport Select Committee that completing electrification would “be more expensive” than buying other trains’.

Transport Committee chair Lilian Greenwood said: ‘This report … is frustrating because it shows the secretary of state took the decision on the Midland Mainline in March 2017. He failed to mention it to the wider world, not just until the General Election was over, but until the last day before recess in July.

‘It is frustrating because it shows the secretary of state was less than candid with the committee when we sought to investigate this during our evidence session last October. Even when the committee recalled him in January, we did not get the full story. This report confirms we were right to be worried about the decision-making process and the openness and transparency with which the Department and the secretary of state have presented their case.

‘But it is especially frustrating for passengers. The report confirms that the Department has not yet fully costed the environmental and future financial implications of its decision on Midland Mainline and Oxenholme to Windermere. I believe this should have been considered before the decision to cancel was made.

‘The secretary of state promised my committee that completing electrification would “be more expensive” than buying bi-mode trains which deliver the same passenger benefits. He said this knowing the technology does not exist. We will watch developments on this closely so we can hold the secretary of state to account as he tries to deliver the promises he has made.’

A DfT spokesperson said: ‘We are spending billions of pounds across the country to deliver faster, more frequent, and more comfortable services with more seats.

‘As this report makes clear, we are focused on delivering better trains and services to passengers more quickly, at better value for money for the taxpayer, without the significant disruption to services that electrification can cause.’


Also see

Register now for full access

Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

comments powered by Disqus
highways jobs

Project Engineer (Permanent)

Havant Borough Council
We’re looking for an experienced and enthusiastic engineer to join our well-regarded design and implementation team. Havant, Hampshire
Recuriter: Havant Borough Council

Project Engineer (Fixed Term)

Havant Borough Council
We’re looking for an experienced and enthusiastic engineer to join our well-regarded design and implementation team. Havant, Hampshire
Recuriter: Havant Borough Council

Contract Supervisor

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£31,013 - £36,486 depending on skills, knowledge and experience
The role of Contract Supervisor (Waste and Street Cleansing) will require you to support ambitious plans to provide services for residents Richmond upon Thames, London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Flood Risk Manager

Birmingham City Council
£43,662 - £54,574
The role requires the post holder to be the lead professional for the Authority’s Flood Risk Management and drainage function Birmingham, West Midlands
Recuriter: Birmingham City Council

Head of Highways & Transport

Lewisham London Borough Council
up to £72,705
As our lead expert on highways and transport, you will set the direction and lead on all transport related matters Lewisham, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Lewisham London Borough Council

Ugobus Driver (multiple positions)

Essex County Council
Up to £18938.0 per annum
Please note that we have permanent, fixed term and relief contract opportunities on a part time, job share and flexible working basis. The salary is u England, Essex, Chelmsford
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Assistant Director

Hounslow London Borough Council
Up to £82k
Working across a wide range of high profile direct services, the emphasis for this role is on partnership working. Hounslow (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Hounslow London Borough Council

Head of Parks and Environmental Services

Harrogate Borough Council
£58,778 - £61,882
You will have experience at a senior level in the management and delivery of front line services relevant to the functions Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: Harrogate Borough Council

Programme Technician/Engineer

Norfolk County Council
£29,636 - £31,371 per annum
This is a challenging position which involves working across wide ranging activities. Norwich, Norfolk
Recuriter: Norfolk County Council

Principal Transport Planner – 2 posts (Warrington Waterfront Western Link)

Warrington Borough Council
£40,760 - £43,662 plus essential car user allowance
We are looking to form a new Warrington Waterfront Western Link Team and we are looking to fill a number of key posts Warrington, Cheshire
Recuriter: Warrington Borough Council

Director of Integrated Transport

Liverpool City Region
Salary up to £124,848
The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is embarking on a search for an exceptional individual with the passion to deliver on our vision Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Region

Highways Manager

Oxford Direct Services
Oxford Direct Services
Recuriter: Oxford Direct Services

Data Entry Administrator

Telford & Wrekin Council
£18,795 - £19,171
Telford & Wrekin’s Public Protection Service is looking for an enthusiastic and self-motivated Data Entry Administrator Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Transport Planner

Camden London Borough Council
£33,122 to £38,423
You’ll have previous experience of working in a transport/planning/accessible transport environment Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Parking Business Administrator Level 3 Apprenticeship

Brent Council
£15,000 p.a. inc.
This role will support the Brent Parking Team work to provide administrative support for both the Notice Processing Team Brentford (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Principal Engineer (Development)

Liverpool City Council
£37,849 - £42,683
Liverpool City Council wish to recruit a Principal Engineer (Development) to provide managerial and technical support. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Traffic Manager

Lincolnshire County Council
£55,503 - £60,578
We are looking to recruit a Traffic Manager to join our Highways team Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Team Leader x2 - Passenger Transport

Redbridge London Borough Council
£27,228 - £28,215 per annum
You will be responsible for overseeing the duties of Passenger Transport drivers as well as providing support to the service and managers. Redbridge, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Redbridge London Borough Council

UTMC Engineer

Warrington Borough Council
£31,371 - £34,788
You will support the UTMC Principal Engineer and work as part of a team responsible for all aspects of Urban Traffic Management and Control Warrington, Cheshire
Recuriter: Warrington Borough Council

Programme Assurance Manager Public Realm

Westminster City Council
£46,293 - £49,203 per annum
A graduate, or have equivalent experience, and you can show evidence of continued professional, managerial and personal development... City of Westminster, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Westminster City Council