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Thameslink rolling stock delays threatening 2018 delivery date

Delays of more than three years in the Thameslink rolling stock programme are threatening to undo otherwise good progress that’s been made on the project as a whole, according to a new report from the National Audit Office.

Phase one of the programme cost £1.704bn, was completed on time and was £143 million under budget, it said, meaning the DfT had done “well so far” on the infrastructure elements of the project. 

But the rolling stock delays “mean that delivering value for money from the Programme as a whole is at greater risk than the NAO would have expected at this stage”, it said. “This has implications for the rest of the programme and also plans for electrification of other parts of the rail network.”

The NAO said the DfT may have “underestimated the scale of the work, time and skills and resources it needed to negotiate a PFI deal of this complexity” – meaning that the 2018 final delivery date remains open to question.

It says there remains a “robust” transport case for the £3.552bn (2006 prices) programme, to relive overcrowded services and add capacity.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “It’s too early in the Thameslink programme to conclude on whether or not it will achieve value for money. That will have to wait until the new service is running. However, there has been good progress in delivering the first stage of the infrastructure part of the programme on time and under budget, which the Department now needs to build on. Our principal concern is around the delay in agreeing the contract to build new trains which raises questions about the feasibility of delivering the whole programme by 2018.”

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle MP, said: “It is bad enough that ministers decided to build the new Thameslink trains in Germany, but staggering that they can’t even be sure they will be delivered on time. The Government has had three years to agree this contract and their failure to do so is now putting at risk the planned 2018 delivery date. It is unbelievable that these delays will require taxpayers to fund additional trains to meet short-term demand on newly electrified routes elsewhere in the country because the old Thameslink trains will not be freed up for use as soon as expected.”

A DfT spokesman told the BBC: "We are in the final stages of the process and we expect to conclude the deal shortly. We have an experienced senior team in place and are confident that we will be able to deliver the remainder of the project on time and on budget.”

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