The Institute of Directors has criticised Network Rail and called for the body to bring the cost of contracts under control after the Public Accounts Committee questioned the “staggering” costs of electrifying the Great Western Main Line.
Dan Lewis, Senior Infrastructure Adviser at the Institute of Directors, said:
“Network rail increasingly looks like Greece on Rails. This is just the latest upgrade to be plagued by ballooning costs and stretched deadlines, hitting passengers with endless disruption, and taxpayers with ever more public subsidy for the dysfunctional rail blob.
“Everybody agrees Britain needs a better railway. Everybody knows that will require investment. But with public finances stretched, making sure this much-needed spending is driven to the best projects requires a clear idea of how much they are going to cost before contracts are signed. Passengers will be hoping the new National Infrastructure Commission can get a grip of the situation.
“With billions of pounds in investment, including Britain’s most expensive rail project in history, HS2, coming down the track, and debt standing at £38 billion, Network Rail must figure out how to manage a 21st century railway without costs spiralling out of control. The Shaw Review into the long-term future of Network Rail, currently under way, promises to present bold ideas about how to achieve a more sustainable system. For instance, if Network Rail cannot deliver projects on time and on budget, it should consider imposing cast-iron price caps on engineering contracts. There is also a case to be made for looking at whether it can sell off assets to plug its finances, and reviewing whether Britain’s rail needs would be better served by giving Train Operating Companies more control over stations and tracks.”