Costs of work 'doubles'

Minister plunged into rail project overspending row

Humza YousafTransport minister Humza Yousaf was today caught up in a growing controversy over the spiralling cost of improvements to the ScotRail network.

A report revealed some major upgrades would now cost twice their original estimates, prompting Mr Yousaf to call for Holyrood to have greater powers over infrastructure company Network Rail.

Five key schemes will now cost £379 million more than the initial forecasts, taking the total to £1.5 billion, the report for the Scottish Government said.

Among those affected by the higher costs are the Aberdeen-Inverness line and electrification of the secondary Edinburgh-Glasgow line via Shotts.

The cost electrifying the Edinburgh-Glasgow main line via Falkirk has increased by £136m to £795m.

Mr Yousaf today expressed his dismay at the lack of Holyrood control over Network Rail and called for the full devolution of powers.

He told the rural affairs and connectivity committee: “I’m astounded at the lack of leverage and control the Scottish Parliament has over Network Rail. I do not feel that is an acceptable situation whatsoever.”

He said that Transport Scotland “lacks effective leverage.”

Mr Yousaf was also critical of Network Rail for not keeping his office informed.

But Scottish Conservatives turned their attack on Mr Yousaf, calling on the Scottish Government to “get a grip of Scotland’s rail network”.

ScotRail train Waverley
ScotRail: improvements (photo by Terry Murden)

Rural Affairs Committee member Jamie Greene said:  “The Transport Secretary this morning claimed he had full confidence in the rail improvement programme – and yet we now learn that costs have sky-rocketed by nearly £400 million.

“It’s not good enough to blame Network Rail for everything.

“Coming at a time when ScotRail is failing to hit performance targets, passengers have every right to be angered at the government’s failure to get a grip of our rail system.

“Mr Yousaf passed the buck to Network Rail this morning and then admitted he wasn’t even a transport expert.

“There have been plenty of warnings about the cost over-runs at Network Rail. The least people expect is a Minister with the expertise necessary to get a grip.”

Network Rail was able to deliver a number of projects to deadline and on budget, including the Borders Railway, Airdrie-Bathgate line and the overhaul of Waverley Station in Edinburgh.

Holyrood gained more control over Network Rail in 2004 and the ScotRail Alliance – a joint venture between ScotRail and Network Rail – has won plaudits within the industry as a potential model to be copied elsewhere.

Network Rail said it had already acted on recommendations in a report on the delays by accountants Ernst & Young.

> Public body could step in to run ScotRail

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