The House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee is demanding the government explain who is responsible for ‘failures’ on the delayed and over-budget Crossrail project.
MPs said the project “was supposed to set the standard for delivery of transport programmes”, but “yet again, costs have escalated and delivery dates have turned out to be over-optimistic”.
Work on Crossrail began in May 2012 and the Elizabeth Line was due to open in December 2018, but a series of delays mean the route will not be fully operational until 2020 at the earliest.
The project has also gone nearly £3 billion over budget after it received a bailout from the government and Transport for London (TfL) to continue development.
A damning report by auditor KPMG released in January revealed the project is costing £30 million a week.
Sir Terry Morgan, former chairman of Crossrail and DfT) and Crossrail Limited, which runs the project, “are unable to fully explain how the programme has been allowed to unravel”. It said the latter company failed to properly report the risks to the project and that “key warning signs were missed or ignored”.
Furthermore, MPs said they are “becoming increasingly alarmed” at shortcomings in the DfT’s project management and oversight of the UK’s railways.
Chair Meg Hillier commented: “Passengers were led to believe they would be able to use new Crossrail services through central London from the end of last year. Instead, they have been badly let down by significant delays and cost overruns.
“It is clear that the delivery deadline of December 2018 had been unrealistic for some time. But the Department for Transport, Transport for London and Crossrail Limited continued to put a positive face on the programme long after mounting evidence should have prompted changes.”
She continued: “It is unacceptable that Parliament and the public still do not know the root causes of the failures that beset this project. Nor will we accept the Department and Crossrail Limited’s description of these serious problems as ‘systems failures’.
“Accountability in the use of public money is of fundamental importance. The Department should write to us urgently to explain what it, Transport for London and Crossrail Limited are responsible and accountable for on this programme and set out clearly what consequences there have been for well-rewarded officials whose costly failures are paid for by taxpayers.”
The committee has recommended that the Department for Transport: The UK government department responsible for the English transport network, as well as transport matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that are not devolved. explain how it has changed its contractual relationship with Crossrail so it can hold the company accountable for its performance by July.
Some Elizabeth Line services are already operating between Shenfield and Liverpool Street and between Paddington and Hayes & Harlington. When it becomes fully operational, services will run from Reading and Heathrow in the west through central London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.