Network Rail overspent by as much as £60million on their own de luxe listed offices in Kings Cross station that bring no benefit to the travelling public. This up to £60million overspend is three times the amount that Network Rail told the community it could not afford for a much needed footbridge over the tracks. It is as much as nine times the initial budget.
The overspend on offices for Network Rail staff is 13% of the entire budget for the Kings Cross refurbishment (usually quoted hazily at around £400m) at no benefit to the travelling public.
The estimate of £60m on offices is an interpretation of opaque data released by DfT under FOI. Costs were up and down like a yoyo: the DfT synthesis document makes it impossible to see how much Platform Y (now Platform 0 or Zero) cost other than that it appeared over budget. We know that the Eastern Range offices turned out at £66.4m. I assumed that the lowest budget of £13m for Platform Y/0 and Eastern Range were split 50:50 then that's an overspend in the range £50-60m. I'd be delighted to hear from Network Rail in the comments with precise budget at outset, revised budgets and actual out turns for each of the Eastern Range and Platform Y/0 – their PR stopped returning any emails from me months ago.
The budget for Kings Cross is hard to pin down – the 'Stations Delivery Plan' (Figure 5, page 8) shows forecast expenditure on Kings Cross from 2008-2013 of £328.6m, but no indication of the budget. Kings Cross is hoovering up over 30% of the entire national Station Enhancement project.
Network Rail is not subject to FOI but their reports to DfT are and DfT's letter to me confirms that this is all they have. It's great that the new government will extend FOI to cover Network Rail. If Network Rail overspend by this much on offices one does have to ask what else is going on in the rail system with more complex projects – transparency is long overdue.
Bits of this information have been in the public domain for some time. But i had become rather fed up with the station saga and let it languish. Until I learned of the crazy bonuses paid to Network Rail staff. Which motivated me to put this post together. Construction News first covered a doubling of the budget in August 2008 and my FOI requests last year dragged more information into public view.
DfT claims no responsiblity nor apparently great interest in the overspend which is odd given it's substantial proportion of the Kings Cross budget. I specifically asked what steps DfT officials had taken to make Ministers aware of the problem. The DfT reply did not include any such information, nor did it cite any exemptions on 'advice to Ministers'. So one has to ask if Ministers were informed.
New platforms are always a good thing, but it's puzzling that DfT officials and Network Rail invited the new Secretary of State for Transport to the opening of Platform 0 as his first public rail engagement. Accurate briefing would have said: 'come and open this over budget project that it adds nothing significant to the capacity of the East Coast main line and caused a huge reaction in the community' (the viaduct at Welwyn remains the limiting constraint on ECML capacity – £60m could perhaps have been better spent there.) Mr Hammond was opening an expensive car park for trains (or train park) but he wasn't to know – he has Network Rail's opacity to thank for that.