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Government ‘must explain who is responsible for Crossrail failures’

The railway was due to open in December 2018.

Crossrail was due to open in December 2018 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Crossrail was due to open in December 2018 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The responsibility for Crossrail failures must be explained by the Government, MPs have demanded.

Passengers have still not been told the root causes for London’s new east-west railway being delayed and over budget, a scathing report by the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee (PAC) stated.

The cross-party committee urged the Department for Transport (DfT) to make clear what it, Transport for London and Crossrail Limited are responsible for in relation to the project.

The Department should also outline “what the consequences have been” for senior officials after the railway failed to open as planned in December 2018, the report said.

Committee members warned that they were “not convinced” trains will begin running next year or that the “additional £2.8 billion of funding provided will be enough”.

The DfT was also accused of failing to put in place robust governance arrangements.

Wishful thinking is no basis for spending public money PAC chair Meg Hillier

The committee added that it was “increasingly alarmed at the continual shortcomings” in the DfT’s oversight of Britain’s railways.

Crossrail’s cost is being met by the Government, the Greater London Authority – including TfL – and London businesses.

Crossrail Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of TfL, was established in 2001 to build the new railway.

The project’s budget has fluctuated from £15.9 billion in 2007 to £14.8 billion in 2010.

But due to the cost of the delayed opening, a £2 billion Government bailout of loans and cash was announced in December.

Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the PAC, said passengers have been “badly let down” and it is clear the planned opening date was “unrealistic for some time”.

She blamed the organisations involved for putting a “positive face on the programme long after mounting evidence should have prompted changes”.

She went on: “It is unacceptable that Parliament and the public still do not know the root causes of the failures that beset this project.”

The DfT spokesman insisted it “consistently challenged the leadership of Crossrail Ltd” on the delivery of this project.

He continued: “As soon as the company admitted delay, the Department and TfL acted swiftly to identify lessons, change the leadership of the Crossrail Ltd board, and strengthen governance and oversight.

“It is deeply disappointing that the Public Accounts Committee – which previously described the oversight of Crossrail as a ‘textbook example’ of governance – has not recognised any of the steps that have been taken to ensure delivery of this vital project while protecting taxpayers.”

Crossrail will be known as the Elizabeth Line when it opens.

Once fully operational, it will run from Reading and Heathrow airport in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, through 13 miles (21km) of new tunnels in central London.

Crossrail Ltd chief executive Mark Wild said: “We take the views of the Public Accounts Committee very seriously and will be reviewing their recommendations carefully.

“Since becoming CEO of Crossrail in November last year I have overseen an intensive review of the programme.

“It is clear that more work is required to complete the infrastructure, the integration of the train, signalling and station systems and to undertake the extensive testing that will be necessary to open a safe and reliable railway.

“We are making progress in all these areas and, in addition, we have put in place an enhanced governance structure and new leadership team to strengthen the programme.

“The Elizabeth line will be completed as quickly as possible and brought into service for passengers. The team is working extremely hard to establish a new approach through the development of an Earliest Opening Programme for the railway and we will be providing more details later this month.”

A TfL spokesman said: “We welcome scrutiny of the Crossrail project and, along with the DfT as joint sponsors, have taken a number of actions to strengthen governance and oversight, including changes to both the Crossrail Limited board and the Crossrail executive team.

“Everyone involved remains fully focused on ensuring the Elizabeth line, which will transform travel across London, is completed and brought into service for passengers as quickly as possible.”

PA

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