The enquiry into the delays to the opening of Kenilworth Station has opened. Officers involved in the project will inform a panel of members from across all parties and from Kenilworth Town Council who will be overseeing the review, advised by an expert from the rail industry. The review is being independently chaired by John Bridgeman CBE, one of the country’s most experienced figures in public interest inquiries in both the public and private sectors.
With a background in industry culminating in appointment as CEO of British Alcan Aluminium plc, John served for six years on the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and five years as Director General of Fair Trading – a Non-Ministerial Government Body responsible for Competition Policy and Consumer Protection.
The review will bring together all of the partners that were involved in the delivery of the station along ten lines of enquiry; partners will be asked to record their own involvement so that the panel can identify at which stages of the project delays occurred and what caused them.
There will also be engagement with the public with a leaflet drop inviting people to comment
The purpose of the review is then to make recommendations on developing future rail projects particularly with regard to estimating timescales, something which John Bridgeman says is a complex process. He said:
“Since the Beeching Report lead to the closure of so many stations across the UK, more than 160 have re-opened. Without exception, these have encountered difficulties.
“It is a complex process to reopen a station and reports that have followed the many re-openings to date would suggest that it is a thankless task. Local authorities have to show real determination not to be deterred by the obstacles and complexity that they encounter.”
Early findings have shown some points for encouragement. Most notably, the station was built within budget and, with the café approach to ticketing, is an exemplar of a modern station that will be well-placed to accommodate a growing demand as the partners pursue longer trains, with more spaces for customers, to serve the network.
“I am encouraged by the process so far. We have identified most of the pieces in the jigsaw and shapes are beginning to emerge.
“It is vital that local authorities are not discouraged from taking the responsibility for creating rail stations, though, and important to note that this particular project delivered an outstanding station within budget which will become integral to the town of Kenilworth.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Warwickshire County Council’s leader, said: “We recognise that, as the authority which lead on the construction of the new station at Kenilworth, we have to take on the chin any criticism of the project; in this instance, that is of course people’s frustrations at the delay in completion.
“The County Council, and our partners in the rail industry, have an ambitious programme for developing the county’s transport infrastructure. We must take whatever learning we can from the building of Kenilworth Station so this independent review is looking at everything, good and bad, that will help us to deliver future projects. John Bridgeman’s status in reviewing public projects means that we have someone who is among the best in the trade and we are sure that he will prepare a very thorough, independent report that will serve us well in future projects”.
Notes on John Bridgeman
John Bridgeman CBE was appointed Independent Chairman of the Kenilworth Station Inquiry in May 2018. He has been the Independent Chairman of Warwickshire County Council’s Audit and Standards Committee since 2000.
With a background in industry culminating in appointment as CEO of British Alcan Aluminium plc he served for 6 years on the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and five years as Director General of Fair Trading – a Non-Ministerial Government Body responsible for Competition Policy and Consumer Protection.
He has subsequently been a member of the Defence Science Advisory Council, founding Chairman of the Horseracing Regulatory Authority, Vice Chairman of British Waterways, later the Canal & River Trust, and Chairman of the Direct Marketing Authority. He has chaired many public interest inquiries in the public and private sectors.
John Bridgeman is currently Independent Appeals Commissioner for the Direct Marketing Authority, a Trustee and Committee Chairman of the British Horseracing Pension Fund and a Vice President of the Trading Standards Institute.