A NEW report from the London Assembly is accusing London transport commissioner Mike Brown of ‘watering down’ the information about potential Crossrail delays which was given to the Mayor, and questions whether he should keep his job.
Transport for London has denied the allegations.
The report, ’Derailed: getting Crossrail back on track’, analyses what went wrong, and why the launch of services between Paddington and Whitechapel under central London has been pushed back to a ‘mystery date’ which has yet to be announced.
The core service, to be known as the Elizabeth Line, should have begun in December 2018 but has been repeatedly delayed. It has now been suggested that a launch may not be possible before 2021.
The report also finds that ‘significant concerns’ raised by an independent reviewer as early as January 2018 were ‘largely ignored’, that the ‘desire to achieve the completion date overpowered any professional and critical assessment of risk’, and that the Crossrail Executive did not have the skills required at the later stages of the project to assess and understand the risks as they became apparent.
The other recommendations in the report are that the Mayor should strengthen his control over Transport for London, so that he is effectively kept up to date about the progress of schemes, and that Crossrail and similar future projects should have systems that ‘encourage transparency, openness and a sense of accountability on all levels’
The chair of the Assembly’s transport committee Caroline Pidgeon said: ‘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 all can bring this sorry chapter of the project’s journey to a close.’
TfL said: ‘It is clear that the responsibility for the delay to the Crossrail project lies with the former management of Crossrail Ltd. It is entirely incorrect to suggest the Transport Commissioner, or anyone at TfL, kept any information from the Mayor.
‘The Commissioner works to ensure that the Mayor is kept informed of everything going on in transport in London and to ensure the information he receives is clear, consistent and accurate.
‘As the Commissioner made clear to the Transport Committee, it would not have been right to allow material to go to the Mayor that was incorrect or inconsistent with information that the management of Crossrail Ltd themselves were presenting to TfL and the Mayor in regular face to face meetings.
‘Everyone involved is fully focused on opening the Elizabeth Line as soon as possible.’