Progress delivering the Emergency Services Network – Transcript

Narrator: Oliver Lodge, Director, National Audit Office

Date: 10 May 2018

Police officers, firefighters and ambulance crews rely on effective communications to do their jobs and provide the vital services we all rely on. The Home Office is replacing the radio system that they currently use, called Airwave, with a new system - the Emergency Services Network, or ESN. ESN will run on an existing mobile phone network and aims to provide a cheaper, more versatile service.

But our latest report shows that ESN is considerably overbudget and likely be even later than expected. The Home Office’s original approach was too optimistic about the risks. Last year it recognised it had serious problems and “reset” the ESN programme.

The Home Office now plans to switch off Airwave in December 2022. But we conclude it’s unlikely that ESN will be ready in time. The expected costs of ESN have already increased by almost 50%, to £9.3 billion. If ESN is reset again the costs could be higher still. 

And there are still some serious risks. The critical technology needed to satisfy the emergency services that ESN will work may not be ready in time, and the Home Office needs to show that it can make the various parts of ESN work together as a whole.

We recommend the Home Office makes sure its new timetable for ESN is realistic and decides what it will do if the technology doesn’t work. 

For more information read our report online.