More than £4M was spent since by the Department for Transport (DfT) on consultancy fees for the drawn-out Williams-Shapps Review.
The highest yearly spend was recorded in 2019-20, in which consultants received £2.5M for their work on the review.The review was launched in 2018 triggered by chaos created by timetable changes that year and the failure of the East Coast franchise. It was initially due to report back at the end of 2019, however it’s eventual publication took an additional 18 months.
Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris provided the figures in response to a written parliamentary question from Labour MP Tan Dhesi following the publication of the review last month.
Consultants used were Ashurst, PWC, Rail Delivery Group, Eversheds Sutherland, Britain Thinks, Steer Davies Gleave, Jacobs and Deloitte
2018-19 – £647,791
2019-20 – £2,576,541
2020-21 – £878,014
2021-22 – £145,793 (year to date)
Heaton-Harris added that consultancy involves “the provision of objective advice relating to strategy, structure, management or operations of an organisation, in pursuit of its purposes and objectives”.
He said: “Such advice is provided outside the ‘business-as-usual’ environment when in-house skills are not available and is time-limited. The numbers provided here are from unaudited internal management information.”
In response, Dhesi emphasised the need to “fully” account for the money spent on the review.
“Considering the huge delays in getting the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail finally published, it is very important that public money be fully accounted for on this project, especially as millions have already been given to private operators and companies on rail expenditure,” he said.
“We must ensure taxpayers and passengers are getting the very best value for money, alongside an efficient, decarbonised and convenient rail network.”
A DfT spokesperson said: “The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail is about essential reforms designed to ensure we build a modern, punctual and affordable railway.
“This vital expenditure has supported the development of this plan, ensuring our reforms will create a financially sustainable model that delivers for passengers.”
The long-awaited review has been described as the biggest shake-up in 25 years for the rail sector.
British Airways boss Keith Williams was the original author but transport secretary Grant Shapps was revealed as a co-author after helping to update the report to reflect the impact of the pandemic on the railway sector.
Its main outcome is the formation of Great British Railways (GBR) to oversee both rail infrastructure and services. This will see Network Rail absorbed into the organisation from 2024.
GBR’s role will integrate the railways, owning the infrastructure, collecting fare revenue, running and planning the network, and setting most fares and timetables.
Overall, GBR’s remit is set out as delivering on the government’s priorities for rail; developing a 30 year strategy with five year business plans; being responsible for safe and efficient operation; being accountable for the passenger offering; own and operate stations and infrastructure; support the rail freight market; and empower regional decision making.
GBR is also expected to deliver £1.5bn in savings a year after five years as a result of “increased purchasing power and economies of scale, and make it easier and cheaper to plan maintenance, renewals and upgrades”.
Department of Civil Engineering https://www.ibu.edu.ba/department-of-civil-engineering/