Flying Scotsman: What went wrong
By: Robin Jones
The National Railway Museum’s long-awaited independent report into why it has cost £2.7-million to overhaul A3 Pacific No. 4472 Flying Scotsman has criticised the museum’s handling of the project.
The report has been compiled by Bob Meanley, chief engineer at Tyseley Locomotive Works.
Its executive summary states as follows:
No. 4472 Flying Scotsman was purchased for the nation in April 2004 at a cost of £2.3m by the National Railway Museum (NRM)a, through a sealed-bid auction process. It ran intermittently until December 2005 at which point it was withdrawn from traffic to undergo a major overhaul. The original objective was for the repair to last one year and cost about £750k.
This proved to be over-optimistic with the work still unfinished six years later and the cost likely to exceed £2.6-million.
The overhaul and renewal of Flying Scotsman has turned out to be one of the
most extensive restoration projects ever undertaken in the heritage railways sector. This investigation was set up to discover why it is so late and so much over budget.
The reasons for the delays and cost escalation can be summarised as follows:
1. The condition of the locomotive when purchased was poor. In almost 50 years of post-BR ownership, it had a large number of owners, several of which failed financially. It had been heavily used and maintenance standards had been neglected.
2. The pre-purchase inspection was rushed and painted an overly positive picture .
3. NRM failed to undertake an adequate investigation of the condition of the locomotive, either when it first took ownership or at the start of the refurbishment. Consequently the original budget and timescale for the refurbishment were not based on engineering reality.
4. For much of the time, project management was ineffectual or non-existent. Since the project started, half a dozen different people have been in charge, few of whom had experience of managing a £2-million engineering project. It has not been possible to find proper scope or planning documentation for the project.
5. NRM’s supply chain was largely restricted to the heritage railways sector. This is a
cottage industry that had difficulty in working within the formal contract management
procedures expected of a publically-funded organisation.
Several suppliers failed to meet their contractual targets but NRM’s contract management system was ineffective in resolving the problems.
6. The NRM engineering organisation was inadequate for the scale of the work or for
supporting the formal contract management structure. Staff losses and illnesses and
delays in recruitment exacerbated the situation.
7. There were conflicts between the curatorial desire to retain as many original
components and assemblies as possible and the need to produce a locomotive meeting the stringent demands of Network Rail for main line operation.
8. There were also conflicts between the desire of senior management for the locomotive to be seen at public events (the public having funded the purchase) and the need to pursue a structured engineering refurbishment programme.
These issues are discussed in more detail in the body of the report, which also recommends actions to reduce the likelihood of other projects suffering similar problems.
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