The disastrous project to electrify the Great Western railway lines to South Wales and the West of England has been condemned by the chair of Network Rail.
The scheme was delivered late, £2bn over budget and incomplete.
Sir Peter Hendy told the Transport Select Committee: “I’ve been in Network Rail for six years and we’re all scarred by the Great Western electrification – which was the project from hell because it was agreed largely originally over a weekend with no idea what its scope was and no idea of how much it cost.
“That’s a really bad way of spending billions of pounds of public money.”
After the project had begun, the government said that crucial parts of the main lines to Bristol and Wales would be left out.
The Cardiff to Swansea electrification has been cancelled altogether. Other sections, including the western part of the Bath and Bristol Temple Meads line, the Oxford spur and the link between the two main Bristol stations have been indefinitely deferred.
The decision meant intercity express trains must be fitted with diesel engines – known as “bi-modes”.
The rail writer Paul Bigland wrote in his blog: “Bi-modes are the worst of all worlds as they’re hardly energy efficient. “They may run on electric power for most of the trip, but then they’re carting around a lot of dead-weight in diesel engines and fuel.”
The new railways White Paper gives the GWR electrification as an example of “multi-billion-pound, taxpayer-funded investments and upgrades that should have been, and will in the long term be, a boon turned into a fiasco.”
The cost increased from an expected £800m to £2.8bn – an overspend of 350 per cent.
Some of the Hitachi intercity express trains on the Great Western line are still out of service following the discovery of cracks.
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