13 July 2010

IEP Report

One of the last actions taken by outgoing Transport Secretary Lord Adonis was to initiate a review into the InterCity Express Programme (IEP). A shrewd move this was as it prevented the incoming Coalition Government from axing the scheme as the report would be underway rather than completed.

Now, however, Sir Andrew Foster's report into the IEP has been published and provides uncomfortable reading for the Department for Transport (DfT). We summarise the main points in bullet form.

General Conduct & Secrecy
  • Secrecy and poor management by the DfT has hampered the scheme and has thrown up a good deal more questions than answers
  • Despite consistently passing internal assessment tests, the scheme evoked scepticism and hostility amongst external stakeholders
  • Key stakeholders were kept at arms length, which reduced goodwill and increased suspicions
  • Scepticism throughout the industry has been put down to the DfT's unwillingness to comment on anything but the absolute bare minimum
  • Agility Trains - who'd build the new trains - claimed better acceleration would counter-act the overall slower speed, but refused to release any documentation proving this, citing commercial sensitivity
  • The all-diesel version "fatally undermined" when Lord Adonis revealed plans for the electrification of the Great Western Main Line, which in turn reduced the train's value for money rating and the precise figure has never been released by the DfT
  • Formations have been altered: the Feb 09 release claimed IEP trains would be either 5- or 10-cars in length, though this was latterly altered to either 5- or 8-car electric-only and 5, 7, 9 or 10-car bi-mode versions. This significant alteration was never officially announced
Technical Issues
  • There are unresolved issues surrounding the technical aspects of the entire project, specifically that the diesel-only aspect of the trains' bi-modal power source will struggle to run on the more hillier and curved tracks, such as the Highland Main Line and Great Western Main Line in Cornwall
  • The bi-mode trains would be less powerful than those they're replacing and would necessitate an increase in journey times
  • There are no bi-mode inter-city express trains anywhere in the world, so very limited experience from which to draw, especially since the national rail industry is not comprehensively supportive of the scheme at all
  • Insufficient credible alternatives to the IEP were not assessed. Options such as other new, cheaper types of train, building new carriages and locos to haul them in a more traditional manner and costing a scheme to life-extend our existing fleet of High Speed Ttrains (HSTs).
  • Original concept, revealed by the DfT in February 2009, was substantially altered on three occasions once Agility Trains had been chosen as the preferred manufacturer, which Sir Andrew believes showed how floored the original plans were
Cheaper Credible Alternatives
  • Better flexibility on carriage lengths by using traditional locomotive traction - simply attach a loco to as many/few carriages as is deemed sufficient
  • An option for electric trains to be hauled by diesel locos for short distances beyond electrified sections should have been considered
  • A number of alternatives could benefit 60% of the East Coast Main Line and 75% of the Great Western Main Line for between 40%-60% of the cost of IEP
  • Extending the life of our existing HSTs to 2030 is technically feasible and cost-effective compared to building a fleet of new trains but would not cater for increased capacity
  • Fewer but higher-capacity trains should be operated, rather than more services with fewer carriages
Sir Andrew concludes: "I have been surprised that more attention is not paid by the DfT, and perhaps more widely by the UK rail industry, to international comparison and interaction. The caricature that I have heard is that we go it alone and miss opportunities to drive down some costs and build on the experience of others. I appreciate that there are some important differences between us and continental Europe, but are they forever writ in stone?"

We think it safe to assume IEP is dead.

Our guide to loco-hauled alternatives

Original IEP announcement, Feb 2009

IEP placed under twelth-hour review

No comments: