Cost studies could see electrification comeback

FORMER HS2 Chief Engineer and Technical Director Professor Andrew McNaughton has been commissioned by the Department of Transport to review the cost of railway electrification in Britain. The review began in July and is expected to be completed by the end of October.

Prof McNaughton’s review will complement the Railway Industry Association’s ‘Electrification cost challenge’ (p9, June issue), which is due to be completed by October. RIA’s benchmarking of international electrification projects suggests that with a sustained rolling programme costs of around £1 million per single track km (stkm) are attainable. This compares with £3 million/stkm for the late-running Great Western Electrification Programme, the cost of which contributed to the cancellation of sections of the scheme.

Network Rail schemes in northern England have come in below the £2million/stkm mark while in Scotland the 2014 Cumbernauld – Springburn electrification cost £1.2 million/stkm. Modern Railways understands Prof McNaughton’s review is aspiring towards a maximum of £1 million/stkm with £800,000 as a ‘stretch’ target.

For reference, at current prices, the 1989 East Coast main line electrification cost just under £500,000/stkm. Given the changes in health and safety regulations, the cost of access on a busier railway and the higher specification required, £1 million/stkm would be a feasible target. That the Department for Transport has commissioned the independent review suggests electrification could still be on the agenda. Roger Ford