Scotland’s transport minister has slammed Network Rail after the industry regulator identified a significant risk that it would not meet delivery milestones, alongside increasing cost estimates.
In its annual assessment of Network Rail in Scotland, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said the infrastructure owner had had a good year on safety in 2015-16 but said ‘good progress improving infrastructure reliability… has not yet translated into better performance for passengers’.
Scotland's transport minister, Humza Yousaf
It added that ‘there are cost and delivery issues on some enhancement projects which need to be addressed’.
The devolved administration’s transport minister, Humza Yousaf, said: ‘I am very concerned and disappointed with Network Rail’s latest programme assessment for Scotland, which identifies significant risk of not meeting previously committed delivery milestones and increasing cost estimates.
‘Of particular concern, Network Rail has informed Transport Scotland that the Edinburgh-Glasgow line will not be running electric services until July 2017. This is seven months later than scheduled and seven months later than they advised ministers two months ago.
‘This will also increase the cost of the project beyond the previous £742 million estimate. Network Rail’s cost estimates for a number of other major projects which are at earlier stages of delivery have also increased. Moreover, progress on other projects has also been slower than expected.'
He added: 'I am not prepared to simply accept the long-term cost implications, nor the revised programmes that Network Rail have set out. I will also be doing everything possible to ensure that Network Rail deliver the full programme in Scotland by March 2019 and without any extra funding from the Scottish Government.’
The minister pointed out that, following its reclassification as a central government body in 2014, Network Rail’s direct accountability is now to the UK Government, although its performance continues to be monitored by theORR.
He said he had instructed Transport Scotland officials to undertake a review of the programme and governance structures for the delivery of major rail projects.
ORR’s chief executive Joanna Whittington said: ‘Over the course of the next year, we need to see evidence that Network Rail’s initiatives are delivering financial efficiencies and noticeable performance improvements for passengers while achieving gains in health and safety.’
On Thursday the transport minister chaired a further meeting of the Scottish Government’s resilience committee ahead of planned rail strikes this weekend and next week.