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CN Briefing: Electrification; Network Rail; Great Western; Midland Main Line; Scotland

It seemed for a while there as though Network Rail had turned a corner.

Following the much-publicised mishaps with its electrification programme last year, 2016 seemed as if it could be different.

Great Western electrification saw its budget balloon by £2bn in 2015, but a beefed-up Great Western team led by Roger Dickinson is firmly back on its feet and hitting delivery targets.

Add to this the story of the Manchester and Bolton line, where work has ramped up despite its main contractor being unexpectedly replaced last October.

It would be fair to say things were looking up.

So the news today that two Scottish electrification projects were running 50 per cent over budget would have come as a hammer blow to Network Rail.

The cost overruns in Scotland completed the set of CP5 electrification schemes to run into problems, with the Great Western, North-western, the Midland Main Line and TransPennine projects all having their own tales of woe.

The whole electrification debacle shows how important meticulous planning alongside correct (and realistic) cost estimating is before starting any major rail scheme.

Network Rail has learned these lessons the hard way.

But it is not only in the rail sector that these lessons can be learned.

The nuclear new-build programme shares a lot of similarities with the electrification programme. There hasn’t been a new nuclear plant built in the UK since 1987.

The last large-scale electrification programme on the UK’s rail network was carried out 30 years ago.

Both require highly technical skills, which are not in abundance in the UK.

And both are and will continue to be firmly in the political spotlight.

Managing expectations could be the crucial takeaway for these developers to take on board before any concrete is poured.

In the news

Aecom continues its expansion into the contracting sector after it secured a contract to build a new £30m office scheme in central London – news editor Robyn Wilson has the exclusive details.

Willmott Dixon, Graham Construct, Kier are among the 17 firms picked for Manchester University’s £175m construction framework. 

Got a bit longer?

Lakesmere’s new boss Ted McMullen talks to CN about Brexit, global expansion and why he wants the company to become the country’s most in-demand tier two contractor.

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