Posted 4th June 2010 | 9 Comments

Hammond orders review of new trains plans

Philip Hammond: NAO report may have reinforced his doubts

Philip Hammond: NAO report may have reinforced his doubts

THE transport secretary has ordered a comprehensive review of rolling stock orders, casting fresh doubt on plans for Thameslink and even Crossrail.

At the same time, the National Audit Office has published a report which is critical of the soaring cost of new trains.

Philip Hammond is already making cuts of £683 million in the Department for Transport budget in the current year, as part of general departmental economies ordered by the Chancellor which are intended to save a total of £6.2 billion.

But the DfT share of these economies is not nearly enough to account for rolling stock orders, which include the vehicles outstanding under the High Level Output Specification (or HLOS) as well as the fleets for Thameslink and later Crossrail. The total cost of these orders would have been at least £4 billion, with new rail vehicles now typically costing at least £1.5 million each.

The ambitious proposals for a next-generation intercity fleet had already been put on hold by the previous Labour government, and the chances of these plans being revived are now looking very slim.

Mr Hammond said Labour's plan for more trains would now be 'rigorously reassessed', to see if they still offered value for money for taxpayers.

"Since that announcement was made in 2007 the growth in passenger numbers has not materialised and costs have soared, leaving Labour's plans in tatters," he explained.

The transport secretary's doubts appear to have been reinforced by today's report from the National Audit Office, 'Increasing passenger rail capacity', which says that the predicted growth in passenger numbers has not materialised because of the economic downturn.

Mr Hammond added that ""significantly fewer new trains will be delivered for the money committed than were promised to passengers".

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Adam, Birmingham

    Most of the HS2 comments on here are naive and totally miss the point (as usual).

    HS2 under Labour was not about London to Birmingham but linked to the WCML at Lichfield which would allow Northbound Express trains from Euston to use HS2 and to be removed from the WCML South thus freeing up many badly needed commuter paths along that stage of the route.

    HS2 under the ConLibs is a different specification as they want to link it to Heathrow and run it via Birmingham to Leeds. Little is known about the current Government's plans for HS2 as they have not released any detailed specifics (including the route). HS2 might be high speed in name but also adds significant capacity to the network that is badly needed.

    Upgrading the WCML for 140mph running would not give value for money south of Rugby and would cause significant cancellations and delays during implementation. Network Rail have the option of allowing Pendolinos to run at 140mph on the Trent Valley but have canned this proposal.

  • James Barlow, Sheffield, United Kingdom

    Seems strange that HS2 is still so popular with them. 35billion? for one line from london to birmingham. not worth it at all. All that money could pay for so much in the form of rolling stock, station improvements gauge improvemnts. singalling improvement for 140mph running. The list goes on. HS2 has very little value for money, the london birmingham will save little of the CO2 they claim as it is not substantial enough network, and construction alone will contribute enough. A large HighSpeed network yes, London to birmingham no way. Hopefully with the sale of HS1 will come improvements to line that will fullfill its potential. Also why no plan to link HS1 and HS2? HS2 seems rushed.

    All this money for thamselink and crossrail, but no trains for it... makes no sense.

  • Terry Piper, Altrincham, UK

    I do find it odd that the Minister has said growth in passenger numbers hasn't met expectations. Where lines have been re-opened in Wales and Scotland passenger numbers have beaten the forecasts every time.

    What puts people off Public transport is the old rolling stock that much of us suffer that live outside the South East. The have been very few new trains in Northern England and those there have (On Trans Pennine and Cross Country sevices) are regularly over crowded and in my view not fit for purpose.

    Surely to meet our Environmental targets what is need is Investment! However rather than having a somewhat dis-jointed approach as has happened in the past (with different companies getting different types of trains) we should buy trains that are for the sector - ie Inter-City, Regional and Commuter ensuring passengers needs are considered (ie Long Distance trains have decent seat, proper luggage facilities etc)

  • Barry Daniels, Derby

    The end of Bombardier Transportation UK Ltd. Joining the likes of Alstom to name a few.

  • Pauline M Hughes, Southam, U.K.

    Does the fact that we are £770 billion in debt have something to do with this decision I wonder? Does it also mean that common sense will prevail and that the grandiose scheme for HS2 will bite the dust?

  • Geoff Steel, Northampton, United Kingdom

    Here we go again; the same old stop-go policies of governments that has for decades blighted long term investment in our railways. Whilst the UK hesitates, the rest of Europe see beyond the short term and invest for the future which still sees a steady growth in rail travel.

    It is also a fact that we still have a lot of ageing diesel rolling stock including the HSTs that will need replacement. In my view the DfT are largely responsible for the cost escalation of train procurement by their unrealistic specifications and processes that clearly will result in the demise of the IEP.

  • John Lowman, Ladbroke

    I find it amazing that with all the suggested cut-backs, which incidentally must happen if we are to balance the UK books, that rather than upgrading existing lines to allow longer trains and a faster passenger service, the government is still proposing that we go ahead with HS2. Bearing in mind the problems with HS1 which has dwindling patronage due to the comfort and commuter cost when using the Javelin trains nobody in their right mind would opt for a high speed service that initially would only link London and Birmingham with no stops in between.

  • Jules, Lowestoft

    "the predicted growth in passenger numbers has not materialised "

    Is this statement actually true? Forecasts are for a long time span and like investments (!) one must take a long term view: it is therefore a matter of fact that it is not possible to state that predicted growth has not materialised. In any event I believed that whilst revenue increase is shaky for some TOCs, passenger numbers are still increasing - many to forecast.

  • Mike Breslin, Liverpool, UK

    It seems that Iain Coucher has also stepped into fray by stating that, as the order for new rolling stock is to be reappraised, then both Great Western and North West electrification projects could be delayed. The danger is that, the longer these projects are delayed, there is then the temptation by the Treasury to suggest that even more money can be saved by cancelling them. If cancellation or even a delay of a few years does occur, passengers in the North West will be commuting in 30 year-old Pacers and Sprinters come the next General Election.