PAC slams Government and Crossrail over delays

“It is unacceptable that the Department and Crossrail Limited are unable to identify the root causes of the programme unravelling so quickly and disastrously,” according to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report into delays on Crossrail.

Published on April 3, the PAC report also accused both the Department for Transport (DfT) and Crossrail Ltd of having a “unacceptably laissez-faire attitude to costs potentially rising by nearly £3 billion” while concern was also raised regarding the value for money of the project being at risk from further increases and delays.

The PAC also accused the DfT and Crossrail of being unwilling to accept their responsibilities for the delays and cost overruns, despite both acknowledging major failures.

PAC Chairman Meg Hillier said: “Passengers were led to believe they would be able 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.

“Wishful thinking is no basis for spending public money and there remain serious risks to delivering this programme, with a revised schedule and costings for completing the work still to be agreed. Some £2.8 billion of extra funding has been provided for Crossrail but even that may not be enough.

“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’.”

A DfT spokesman told RAIL: “The Department consistently challenged the leadership of Crossrail Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London, on the delivery of this project.

“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.

Regarding the 'laissez-faire' attitude claim, the DfT spokesman said: “The Department absolutely rejects this claim and we are disappointed that the PAC has chosen to represent actions taken to learn and implement lessons in a wholly negative way.”

Mark Wild, Crossrail chief executive, 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.”

  • For the FULL story, read RAIL 876, published on April 10, and available digitally on Android, iPad and Kindle from April 6.

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  • Jamie Heslin - 03/04/2019 20:47

    No surprises there but i am proud to of worked on it as a track installation foreman and then a section foreman at Stepney Green tunnel fan install and logistics at Harrow rd. What Mr Wild seems to have done is reduce cost by laying off experienced contractors provided by Vgc group Sullivans Reliable and Cheema to balance the books. My belief he will need them back but once gone it will prove difficult. Yes it will be late. Yes it will be overbudget. But it is one of the greatest achievements and one of the safest with sadly 1 fatality since conception and construction. Try and be a little easier with the criticism Mr Wild are doing what they believe is right.

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  • AndrewJG8918 - 04/04/2019 04:59

    Will Crossrail be completed in mid 2020. With Class 345s to be introduced in service once the whole project has been completed. Or will it be delayed once again until 2021. With all the money being used on the Crossrail project is just been wasted away. If only Crossrail started in 2002 and was completed in 2010. Then it will provide much better rail services for the capital. And it could of been opened before the London 2012 Olympics & Paralympics.

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  • Jim Gourlay - 06/04/2019 03:46

    Congrats to PAC for getting to the core of this problem and calling a spade a spade., What were all these other skills/trades doing while the civil and mechanical trades/engineers were getting on with completing the hard work on schedule i.e. tunnels and stations through the network of existing infrastructure under London. NR never was able to keep all the balls it needed in the air. If their pie-in-the-sky signal-less ideas were not proven why allow Crossrail to be afflicted with unproven systems, Get the damn thing up and running with conventional systems then optimize afterwards. From North America where we have nothing to compare, this looks a sad reflection on the status of British engineering capabilities today. Please do a lot better -- fast!

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