The London Assembly Transport Committee has released a report on the Crossrail project in which it suggests Transport for London (TfL) commissioner Mike Brown should consider his role in delays to the opening of the Elizabeth Line.
Titled “Derailed: Getting Crossrail back on track”, the report analysis the “catalogue of factors” that have led the project – which was due to open in December 2018 – to being delayed until 2020 at the earliest.
It comes after a senior official involved in the project told the BBC there is a chance the Elizabeth Line opening could be delayed again until 2021.
The committee claims emails between Crossrail and TfL “suggest that communications to the mayor were watered down” by Brown instead of flagging risks to the project’s timetable early on.
It also says “significant concerns” were raised by the independent reviewer as early as January 2018 and that these were ignored.
The London Assembly’s report suggests the Crossrail executive did not have the skills needed to assess and understand risks as they became apparent.
Crossrail did not announce the December 2018 deadline could not be achieved until August, when officials said the Elizabeth Line would open in 2019. A further delay was disclosed in December, when the government and TfL agreed a cash injection of nearly £3 billion to complete the project.
As part of its report, the committee has recommended that TfL’s Brown “must reflect on whether he is fit to continue to fulfil his role” and that London mayor Sadiq Khan should “strengthen control over TfL and implement the necessary processes to allow them to remain fully informed and on top of the projects they are ultimately accountable for”.
In addition, the committee is calling for a system of “transparency, openness and a sense of accountability on all levels” for any future infrastructure projects.
The report echoes a similar call for transparency from MPs on the Public Accounts Committee, who have demanded the Department for Transport explain who is accountable for delays to the project.
Caroline Pidgeon MBE EM, chair of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee, commented: “It is a complete tragedy that one of the most highly anticipated engineering projects the world has ever seen has found itself in a mess of overspending, mismanagement and an embarrassingly long delay. Crossrail was supposed to be the beacon of modern 21st-century engineering, but its name is now tarnished with shame in the eyes of the London taxpayer, who will have to foot the bill until its completion.
“The inability of senior figures in the project to push past their obsession with a December 2018 launch date is one of the main reasons why their dream did not become a reality. As a result, thousands of people who have invested in areas around Crossrail stations or those with small businesses have had to deal with longer commutes and major revenue losses.
“It is shameful that nobody at a senior level is willing to take responsibility for the failure of the project thus far. Crossrail’s former chairman Sir Terry Morgan stepped down, however, the evidence suggests that TfL commissioner Mike Brown was at the centre of decisions to dilute important information sent to the mayor.
“Crossrail will provide immeasurable benefits to London once launched, but vital lessons must be learned by the mayor, TfL and Crossrail so we can all bring this sorry chapter of the project’s journey to a close.”
Read the full report here