In May 2017, we commissioned an Independent Reporter, Nichols, to carry out a deliverability review of Stirling Dunblane Alloa (SDA) electrification project.
In May 2017, we commissioned an Independent Reporter, Nichols, to carry out a deliverability review of Stirling Dunblane Alloa (SDA) electrification project. The forecast cost for the works had risen considerably since the beginning of the control period and Network Rail was indicating costs were due to rise still further. Network Rail also raised serious concerns regarding the ability of the project to deliver its obligations in line with the regulated outputs and milestones and overall confidence in the programme had fallen considerably. The project was facing major challenges in securing the necessary engineering access, procuring delivery of the works and defining the scope required for electrical compliance requirements. Nichols were tasked with answering three questions:
- Is Network Rail doing everything reasonably practicable to deliver the outputs of the SDA project in line with its regulated milestone?
- What are the issues that have affected the delivery of this project and has Network Rail taken reasonable and timely steps to resolve these?
- What are the lessons learned from this project, that Network Rail should consider for other projects in the enhancements portfolio?
Nichols found that Network Rail was taking concerted efforts to deliver the project in line with regulated milestones and noted the improved delivery practice relative to electrification projects elsewhere, however together with Network Rail they identified the immediate steps required to negotiate access, resolve procurement issues and improve client and stakeholder confidence in delivery. They found that many of the issues on the project were caused by a lengthy hiatus in the first years of the control period when Network Rail failed to mobilise for the task and initial development work was inadequate; had these activities commenced immediately, many of the subsequent scope and access issues could have been avoided. Finally they identified a number of lessons learned from SDA’s experience and made recommendations for improving confidence in both this scheme and equivalent projects elsewhere on the network.
Since completion of the review Network Rail has addressed many of the issues and recommendations identified in the report and confidence in the project has increased measurably. The project team successfully articulated to stakeholders how it would make efficient use of the additional access it considered to be required for the project. They continue to develop reporting and metrics to improve client and stakeholder confidence and have revised the procurement strategy for the works to drive higher performance and productivity. Progress on site is good and ahead of schedule in many areas; contractor performance is significantly improved and the project team has successfully dealt with the complex challenges around electrical compliance scope. The forecast cost has stabilised but remains high and will be subject to an efficiency assessment by ORR later in the year. We will continue to apply close scrutiny to progress and confidence levels until we are satisfied the outputs are no longer at risk.