RAILTRACK is heading for huge cost overruns on its £1 billion station refurbishment programme.
Contractors and consultants are warning that the final bill is set to soar unless urgent action is taken.
Construction companies are blaming the problems on a combination of ‘abysmal management’ and underestimating the extent of repairs needed.
And subcontractors working on station improvements have branded working for Railtrack as a ‘licence to lose money’.
Railtrack has admitted there are management problems, but is insisting the work is on budget.
One main contractor said: ‘It’s an open secret within the industry that working with Railtrack is a problem.
‘The work is being abysmally managed. At the same time they take an aggressive commercial approach out of sheer ignorance.’
Consultants detailing station work packages have discovered some repairs are up to three times more costly than budgeted at privatisation. Their findings have jolted Railtrack into running a value engineering exercise to try to curb cost overruns.
One consulting engineer said: ‘It first started to become clear on the big main line stations that a lot more work was needed to combat the years of neglect.
‘Now it seems the same holds true for the small stations.’
Consultants warn that cuts in spending on small stations may ultimately cost Railtrack more.
Another consultant said: ‘There is certainly a lot of discussion with Railtrack about how the money will be spent.
‘In some cases it looks more like a patch-up job than complete refurbishment. But whether this is ultimately the most cost-effective way of handling the problem remains to be seen.’
Where work has been agreed, contractors complain they are being hampered by reams of paperwork and management red-tape.
One subcontractor, who worked on station safety upgrades in London, said costs