Public Accounts Committee Press Notice

22 November 2006



National Audit Office report: The modernisation of the West Coast Main Line

For the long-suffering passengers on the West Coast Main Line, the lack of progress of the promised upgrade was all too familiar: delay after delay while the cost went up and up. It is greatly to the credit of the Strategic Rail Authority and Network Rail that they managed to turn around this failed project.

This saga emphasises the crucial need to get a grip on large-scale projects before they run out of control. Passengers will be pleased that their journeys are now quicker and more likely to be on time, but the public are paying the cost - which at an estimated £8.6 billion is more than three times the original estimate.

That Network Rail can afford to overspend by £300 million from 2004 to 2009 shows how important it is to keep rail finances firmly under control.

It is astonishing that, despite Network Rail's spending more than £8 billion on the line, at current levels of growth the line could reach its capacity in as little as nine years, and some of the signalling equipment might become obsolete a lot earlier than expected.

The prospect of more disruption on the line - even if it is still a little way down the track - must be as welcome as a limp sandwich from the buffet.

Notes for Editors

Requests for further comment from Edward Leigh should be made via Luke Robinson, Select Committee Media Officer, on 020 7219 5693 or 07917 488549.