Parliamentary Transport Committee finds Transport Secretary Chris Grayling Lacking in Candour but Strong on Imagination

Chris Grayling MP

Chris Grayling

Transport Committee claims Chris Grayling 'knew vital bi-mode tech didn't exist' when he scrapped three key rail electrification schemes

A damning report into the cancellation of three rail electrification projects has been labelled "deeply frustrating" by the Commons Transport Committee.

The report, by the National Audit Office (NAO), gives details of why and how Grayling cancelled the Midland Main Line electrification north of Kettering, as well as the Oxenholme to Windermere and the Cardiff to Swansea Scheme electrification projects..

In July 2017 the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, announced the cancellation of the three electrification projects, explaining that it is "not necessary to electrify every line in order to deliver passenger benefits". He argued that passenger journeys on the these lines could be improved instead by using "state-of-the-art trains," or bi-mode trains which could transfer from diesel to electric power seamlessly.

But the NAO discovered that Grayling had made the decision to cancel electrification north of Kettering three months earlier, at a time when the DfT had advised that bi-mode trains with the required speed and acceleration to deliver the timetable of the route did not exist. So when he made his announcement in July, it was still uncertain whether existing bi-modes could be modified to achieve these requirements.

In fact the NAO has found that it is still too early to determine whether the passenger benefits can be delivered without these electrification projects in place.

The NAO said that the major reason for the cancellation was affordability and Network Rail had been tasked with raising the money by asset sales - but the DfT and Network Rail reported towards the end of 2016 that this was unachievable. So they decided to cancel projects to help address the shortfall.

Chair of the Parliamentary Transport Committee, Lilian Greenwood, welcomed the NAO report but found it "deeply frustrating".

"It is frustrating because it shows the secretary of state took the decision on the Midland Main Line 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," she explained."The secretary of state promised my committee that buying bi-mode trains would deliver the same passenger benefits. He said this knowing the technology does not exist."

She also said that Grayling was "less than candid" with the committee previously, and that "the report confirms that the committee was right to be concerned about the decision-making process, openness and transparency that the case was presented with. Time and time again, decisions have been made without knowing what the alternatives are."

Based on a report in Rail Technology Magazine 4th April 2018