Flying Scotsman project is restoration nightmare

Flying Scotsman - Unveiled at the NRM in wartime LNER black livery, ahaed of the final phase of its restoration later this year.
Flying Scotsman - Unveiled at the NRM in wartime LNER black livery, ahaed of the final phase of its restoration later this year.
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A SHOCKING series of failures behind a project to restore the Doncaster-built Flying Scotsman steam locomotive to its former glory have been revealed.

The National Railway Museum in York has admitted the cost of restoring the engine, built at the Plant in 1923, will exceed the £2.7m it has already spent, and it cannot say when the project will be completed after a damning independent report into the restoration by a heritage rail engineering specialist.

Among the failings, the report found the project management was “ineffectual or non-existent”, the pre-purchase inspection was “rushed” and painted an “overly positive picture”, and the original budget and timescale for the refurbishment were “not based on engineering reality”.

The report also says: “It is not clear that there was ever a plausible restoration plan.”

The seriousness of the problems with the project was suggested in March, when the museum confirmed Flying Scotsman would not be ready to pull the Olympic Flame from York to Thirsk as part of the torch’s national tour before the Olympics.

Museum director Steve Davies, who said he would “fall on his sword” if the restoration was not completed by April, departs this week leaving replacemen Paul Kirkman to pick up the pieces when he joins the museum as acting director next Monday.

Mr Davies said in a statement: “I welcome the report along with its findings and recommendations.

“The National Railway Museum remains absolutely committed to the restoration of this iconic locomotive and to seeing it running once again on the British main line. Paul Kirkman will use the recommendations to guide the final stages of the restoration.”

The museum has appointed railway consultancy company First Class Partnerships to provide independent advice on seeing the project through.

Its advisory board has also set up a working group to look at the future restoration and running of heritage locomotives from its collection, a move it said was supported by Mr Kirkman.

The museum would not say what it expected the final cost of the restoration to be, although it said it was working with engineering consultants to establish whether draft costs for the final stages of the project were “realistic”.

Asked if the museum was confident it had sufficient funds to complete the scheme, a spokeswoman said: “We are in the process of reviewing the likely final costs, working with First Class Partnerships.

“A decision will be made by the incoming director about how the work will be funded when we know that we have a realistic estimate for the final cost.

“We are clear that there have a been a number of issues and challenges with the project.

“There have also been conflicts between the need to balance the requirements of the refurbishment programme with the museum’s commitment to enabling the locomotive to be seen and enjoyed by the public.”