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DfT overhauls system to prevent Network Rail delays

The government has outlined its method for awarding money to rail enhancement projects post-2019, in a move designed to ensure the massive cost overruns experienced in CP5 are not repeated.

In a document released today, the government sets out its future decision-making process for choosing the enhancement projects it will fund in CP6 and beyond.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said the new process would better scrutinise enhancement plans, and provide more value for rail users and the taxpayer.

Mr Grayling revealed last summer the government would move away from providing Network Rail with a single funding package for enhancements, and instead make decisions centrally on a project-by-project basis.

Under the system, Network Rail’s Route Teams, local authorities and other stakeholders would bring forward projects for government investment.

Projects will go through five checkpoints, with the government making a formal decision on whether to progress with the scheme at each stage. The stages are labelled ‘determine’, ‘develop’, ‘design’, ‘deliver’ and ‘deploy’.

The new approach follows a number of high-profile difficulties in CP5 that saw enhancement projects delayed and run billions of pounds over budget.

Speaking to CN last November, Network Rail’s Infrastructure Projects managing director Francis Paonessa said the overruns and delays were largely due to a lack of scrutiny of schemes at the development stage.

At the start of CP5, only 20 per cent of all enhancement projects had gone through this development stage. By early 2016 that figure had still only reached 50 per cent.

Under the new five-stage process, the determine and develop stage will be based around identifying a project and coming up with a strategic business case.

The design stage will then look into the specifics of the proposal, including line route and the schedule for delivery.

After the government agrees on the design it will take a final investment decision on a project, with construction costs and completion date being agreed.

The government has also set out the criteria for the projects it will favour.

These include those schemes that extend the benefits of projects already under way, such as HS2 and Crossrail; lines that drive new housing growth; and projects that support new technologies, such as digital signalling.

The pipeline of enhancement projects will also be kept under constant review by the government, meaning that even if a decision has been made to take a scheme forward, it could be stalled if work in another area needs to be prioritised.

Mr Grayling said: “This framework is designed to ensure that future rail projects are planned and scrutinised to deliver maximum value and benefit to rail users and taxpayers.

“Taken together, this provides a clear framework for how we will improve the way we enhance our railway.”

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