Runaway Train: At £300m is Croxley Rail Fiasco [still] Value for Money?

rail link

It has been widely reported that costs for the Croxley Rail Link have spiralled out of all control.  The original cost bid for was £118m.  We reported last summer that this had climbed to £180m and the figure Hertfordshire County Council’s cabinet considered last month was £249m.  They said: “At present there remains a gap between the proposed budget and the resources currently available from all partners.” No kidding!  The Watford Observer reported that London Underground Ltd, which was being asked to take control, had set the budget risk at between £285-298m!  WHAT’S GOING ON??

More to the point – how can this still be VALUE FOR MONEY?

In the Value for Money Annex Report prepared for the Croxley Rail Link project in September 2011 (from which the sensitivity analysis table below is extracted), specialist transport economic consultants Steer Davies Gleeve identified that the benefit:cost ratio for a viable scheme should be at least 1.5:1 and, based on the ‘Best and Final Bid’ (BAFB) of £104.3m received at the time the scheme BCR was 2.61.  This was regarded as a good investment return although in a previous post we questioned the validity of some of the assumptions presented to the public enquiry in 2013.

SDGeconomicSensitivity

With a capital cost increase of 20% to £125m the BCR would sink to 2.1.  With an increase of 135% to £245m the BCR would sink to 1.0 (break-even – over a long period).  However based on London Underground’s latest budget estimates the scheme represents a BCR of less than 1.0 – a loss, in fact!

And the Watford Observer quotes that the scheme will operate 6 trains per hour from Watford Junction to Baker Street at peak times – this compares with 8 trains per hour currently from Watford Met between 7 and 8am.  This is an unmitigated disaster for local people travelling from and to Watford Met for whom the walk to/from Cassiobridge/Ascot Rd will represent a significant increase to their journey times.

Meantime, despite the spiralling costs, our local political contenders still support the scheme and the ill-judged ‘wealth campus’ scheme for over-development in West Watford to which it is seemingly intrinsically linked.

Which candidate in the forthcoming election will be brave enough to stand up and say “Enough is enough! We gave the Croxley Rail Link our best shot but at more than twice the approved cost we can no longer fund it nor be sure it provides an adequate return on taxpayers’ money and there are other transport solutions for Watford and more imprortant ways this money could be invested for wider benefit in Hertfordshire.

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5 Responses to Runaway Train: At £300m is Croxley Rail Fiasco [still] Value for Money?

  1. Nick Lincoln says:

    My name is Nick Lincoln. I am the UKIP parliamentary candidate for Watford.

    I have always been ambivalent about the Croxley Rail Link. We have an existing (and lovely) Tube station in Watford and have done for generations. I was never sure there was any heavy demand for a Tube line running from Watford Junction.

    With the costs of this project spiralling out of control, one has to wonder if there are not more important things to be spending money on. The country will be around £1.5TN in debt by the time 7th May arrives. Sadly, we have to place all infrastructure spending in this context.

    UKIP does not – as far as I can ascertain – have a stance on this particular project. The above is my personal view.

  2. Alan Marsden says:

    I live in Croxley. The rail link would be a bit more convenient for me, but not so much as to justify spending £300m on.

    Why not just run regular free shuttle buses from Watford Met to the Junction if they wish to link the two? It’s only a 5-10 minute journey at the very most, and I doubt those who live near the proposed stations would be too inconvenienced.

    I can’t help but feel infrastructure spending is being spend purely to create jobs rather than consider the value for money and practical benefits.

    • Ambercycle says:

      Yes, or what about a high frequency, round Watford [hopper] bus (2-way) from Watford Jct > Watford High St > Hospital > Business Park > Croxley > Watford Met > Watford Jct?

  3. david Astley says:

    I think a wider view needs to be taken re the Hospital and Football ground on match days the centre of Watford is gridlocked no amount of Hopper buses will be able to get through and putting yet more buses on will only cause more congestion Then we need to consider the Pollution aspect I pity the ppl of central Watford, their lungs must be fighting a loosing battle on Match days
    Lets ask for a breakdown of the revised costs by all means but lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater a direct link is long overdue and whilst there is a lot of talk about how useful Watford Met Line Stn it still does not help to alleviate the situation in regard to the Football Ground and Hospital

    Lets get a breakdown stop the whinging and get a transport link fit for the coming generations the old land owners caused this problem in the past lets move on

    • Ambercycle says:

      Not sure it’s a matter of “whingeing”. I’m sure Hertfordshire CC has asked for a ‘breakdown’ and this will make interesting reading but unless there have been huge blunders or indiscretions previously it’s unlikely to suddenly make the scheme good value for money again.

      As someone who lives in Vicarage Road there is indeed congestion and increased pollution once a fortnight during the football season but it passes and locals are generally OK with it. Many fans walk from the Jct and High St stations and there are, as you say, already good bus connections. This does not warrant a £300m investment.

      As for the hospital the position of the proposed Vicarage Road station may benefit some staff and visitors but is too far away and the approach too steep to benefit other than fit, ambulant patients. Being a local hospital patients are also unlikely to be coming from very far away and as mentioed before, local bus routes are already good.

      I’m not fundamentally opposed to the link but Watford already has great public transport and it is a retrograde step if it means taking away a vital transport link from the 1.5m people a year who pass through Watford Met (compared to only half that number through Croxkey).

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