MP announces back-room deal to fund 38% Rail Link cost overrun but still no split service for beleaguered Watford Met users

Watford MP Richard Harrington has written to constituents about his success in securing £50m of additional funding for the Croxley Rail Link from the Department of Transport. Great!  So there can be a split service for residents living around the existing Met Station and for the hundreds of students using the station each day (as recommended by London Travelwatch) despite being told it was unaffordable?

Cassiobridge StationRichard hasn’t said as much but I think he would have done if that were his intention. He says the money, part of the ‘Hertfordshire Growth Deal‘ is “to take the Croxley Rail Link to its next phase” and is “in addition to the £130million already committed to the project”.  We have written to Richard asking what exactly the extra money is for.  Hopefully he’ll tell us it will include a permanent split service of at least 3 trains per hour continuing to serve Watford Met – maybe?  I’m not banking on that just yet.

More likely I suspect he will tell us there has been some kind of budget omission or overrun. Maybe the original budget of £120m just wasn’t enough – there were many sceptics at the time and it sounds like they might have ben right.  The original funding was originally approved in 2013 from the Department for Transport’s ‘Local Major Scheme Process’ and the additional funding is subject to its final approval.  Interestingly the FAQ in the original guidance to bidders stated:

Q23: If you will not be increasing DfT’s funding contribution post Programme Entry, do we need to include optimism bias in our bids?

A23: The previous system for funding cost overruns (the risk layer) no longer applies; the BAFB must include a capped funding bid. However, optimism bias forms an important part of our value for money assessment and it is important that you set out clearly the value of optimism bias you are using in your bids.

Also, the Croxley rail Link was by far the largest scheme approved in the original development pool of 41 projects, accounting for £120m out of £650m available (18.5%). Had the budget been honestly declared at £180m ( 27.7%) you have to wonder if the scheme would have been approved at all, especially in view of it’s shaky business case.

We will also be writing to DfT objecting to this approval without the inclusion of a split service to Watford Met.  If you think

Please write direct to Richard Harrington and to the Secretary of State for Transport asking them to ensure a split service to Watford Met is included in any further funding proposals.

 

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