DfT’s Disappearing Millions

Two interesting tales:

1: Surrey Canal Road Station

Boriswatch describes in admirable detail the wheeling and dealing that lead to TfL agreeing a deal with the DfT to build the East London Line 2 extension. A fantastic achievement for all concerned. Slipped in among the news of funding was that the DfT had offered TfL and additional £7m to build Surrey Canal Road Station, but that TfL had turned down the money.

Londonreconnections reported: “Whilst the deal announced today included provision for the station, its dependent on a further value for money assessment that TfL is currently carrying out – something that suggests that TfL may have agreed to foot the bill should construction go ahead.”

This was February. But what was not noticed at the time was that the DfT offer of £7m was limited to the 2008/9 financial year. On March 31st the offer expired. What will happen if TfL’s review (which will take six months) finds that the station would be excellent value for money? Good question.

2: Gospel Oak to Barking Line Electrification

TfL has wanted to electrify this line (aka Goblin) for some time, but could not make a case for passenger services alone. Adding in freight benefits made the case much stronger. Roger Ford, railway commentator par excellence, reports the story in this month’s Modern Railways.

In this case the DfT was willing to share the cost of electrification with TfL. In return TfL would need to work up a business case and cover all risks – but the deal had to be agreed by 30th April! The DfT offer was worth £25 million.

It would be irresponsible for TfL to agree without having a better idea of the costs, which would require a further study to the level which is called Grip 3. This would cost £400,000. But Grip 3 would take more than the 2 weeks remaining.  DfT apparently refused to pay half the cost of the study. And the offer expired.

What to Make of it All?

Uncle Roger at Modern Railways describes Lord Adonis of the DfT as acting like a double glazing salesman. I can see his point: “sign now or the offer expires”. Most sensible people do not sign – and the law allows for a cooling off period!

I have been in the rail industry for 28 years and this kind of “now you see it, now you don’t” offer is new to me. What are they playing at?


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