Tuesday, July 4, 2017

News: Network Rail responds to tram-train report

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Network Rail initially agreed a budget of £15m to modify the national rail infrastructure for the innovative Sheffield to Rotherham tram-train project.

A new report from the National Audit Office has now revealed that by December 2016, the cost of these works had quadrupled to £75.1m, pushing the overall cost of the scheme over £100m.

Network Rail is the public body that owns and operates Britain's rail infrastructure. As part of the project it is separately responsible to the Government to deliver the heavy rail modifications including the construction of 170 metres of track at Tinsley to connect the Supertram and railway networks.

Delaying the scheme a number of times, the report shows that Network Rail reported that aspects of the work were more complex than initially assumed and that the condition of existing assets was worse than Network Rail's initial assessment. The costs of dealing with them were also higher than expected. Further delays were caused by redesigns and additional works to allow future conversion to standard national rail power supplies.

The report added that Network Rail's original cost estimate had errors due to the under-developed design and that work was more complex than estimated. The technical innovation demanded by the project's objectives also needed more time and expert resources than the original estimated.

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Responding to the report, Rob McIntosh, London North Eastern and East Midlands route managing director at Network Rail, said: "Sheffield to Rotherham tram-train is an ambitious pilot, a UK first, that will bring new travel choices to people of South Yorkshire when services begin in 2018. The project continues to be complex and challenging but will deliver real benefits for thousands of daily commuters.

"Costs and timescales have moved as the project itself has grown in scope and complexity and has had to incorporate more significant infrastructure changes than originally planned. Good progress is being made and a new project team is now in place and driving the scheme to its conclusion."

Over the past year all of the track and junctions connecting the tramway and railway have been installed and the erection of overhead masts between Tinsley and Parkgate, completed. Work has also started on the construction of the new tram-train platform at Parkgate, and work continues to raise College Road bridge to allow the overhead power lines to pass underneath.

McIntosh continued: "The project has learned from tram-train systems in Europe that have encountered their own challenges but there were still a significant number of unique issues to the UK that had to be overcome."

An example of this is the electrification system, which uses DC power as opposed to the AC system which is used across the majority of our network. The pilot has deliberately taken significant time to robustly test and investigate the best way to provide this system.

Similarly the project has been extended to include additional work to future-proof the tram-train electrification system for later conversion to the national rail standard system that was not part of the original scope. Such factors have added time and cost to the pilot which is under significant pressure to deliver a much-anticipated service for the local community and our partners.

McIntosh concluded: "As acknowledged by the NAO, significant changes have been made to the management of the project, with a number of construction milestones achieved, new expertise has been added to the project team and a new, more robust schedule of works created.

"Upcoming milestones include the completion of the tram-train stops at Rotherham Central and Parkgate and the completion of the overhead line power system. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners to enable the introduction of a full tram-train service for passengers in 2018."

SYPTE website
Network Rail website
Stagecoach Supertram website

Images: Network Rail


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