The Transport Committee Chair comments on the National Audit Office report on the cancellation of rail electrification projects.
Commenting on the NAO report, Investigation into the Department for Transport’s decision to cancel three rail electrification projects, Chair of the Transport Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, said:
“This report from the National Audit Office is welcome, but it is deeply frustrating.
It is frustrating because it shows the Secretary of State took the decision on the Midland Mainline in March 2017. He failed to mention it to the wider world, not just until the General Election was over, but until the last day before recess in July.
It is frustrating because it shows the Secretary of State was less than candid with the Committee when we sought to investigate this during our evidence session last October. Even when the Committee recalled him in January, we did not get the full story. This report confirms we were right to be worried about the decision-making process and the openness and transparency with which the Department and the Secretary of State have presented their case.
But it is especially frustrating for passengers. The Report confirms that the Department has not yet fully costed the environmental and future financial implications of its decision on Midland Main Line and Oxenholme to Windermere. I believe this should have been considered before the decision to cancel was made.
The guidance on managing public money is clear: business cases need to show that alternative viable options for achieving a particular outcome have been costed and compared as part of the cost-benefit analysis. But time and time again, decisions have been made without knowing what the alternatives are. Business cases built on hope are not a substitute for business cases built on a proper cost-benefit analysis and a firm grasp of economics.
The Secretary of State promised my Committee that completing electrification would ‘be more expensive’ than buying bi-mode trains which deliver the same passenger benefits. He said this knowing the technology does not exist.
We will watch developments on this closely so we can hold the Secretary of State to account as he tries to deliver the promises he has made.”