'Wall of silence' from county council over Kenilworth Station viability

Questions about the viability of Kenilworth Station have been met with a 'wall of silence' by Warwickshire County Council, according to a Kenilworth man looking for answers.

Wednesday, 14th March 2018, 5:08 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th March 2018, 5:55 pm
Questions have been raised over the viability of Kenilworth Station

Maurice Miller of Windy Arbour was worried that the station's costs had spiralled upwards and needed to be investigated.

He said: "The management of the station construction project, in my view, exhibits all the attributes of a vanity project. The whole scheme in my view should be the subject of a National Audit Office examination."

Maurice was at the Kenilworth Community in Action event in February where he said the county council's joint managing director, Monica Fogarty, claimed there would be 445 journeys per day and 275,000 per year.

He was confused by these figures, as 445 journeys per day multiplied by 365 days in a year equals 162,425 journeys per year.

After this, he submitted two Freedom of Information requests to Warwickshire County Council asking how passenger numbers used to justify the station's construction were calculated, and a copy of the council's budget for Kenilworth Station.

But in its replies received by Maurice on Monday March 12, neither question was answered properly.

In response to the question about passenger numbers, the council said it was worked out by analysing passenger markets from Leamington, Coventry, Birmingham and London. There was no reference to the 445 per day or 275,000 per year figures.

And although the council said its Cabinet had approved the budget for the station in 2015, it said the actual report contained commercially sensitive information and could not be made public.

The council also said any losses made by station operators West Midlands Railway would be paid back to them by the council in the first three years of the station running.

This report was also conducted when it was thought there would be two tracks running through the station. But installing a second track was cancelled in July 2016 by Network Rail after the Hendy Review.

Maurice felt this blow may have affected how viable the station was going to be.

He said: "The issue here is that an over-optimistic station usage estimate and a under-realistic operating cost budget would result in a major operating cost shortfall which the county council has given a firm undertaking to fund apparently without limit at the expense of council tax payers for at least three years.

"Much as I am enamoured of having a station in Kenilworth, I think that the economic arguments were flawed both in terms of the capital cost and future operating budget."

A spokesman for Warwickshire County Council said the viability study was not affected by the Network Rail announcement, adding: "The study was carried out before the double tracking programme delay. However, the service provision is unchanged."

The spokesman also said the station was on-budget, including allowances for contingency.