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.
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.