Crossrail ‘may go further over deadline and budget’

3 Apr 19
Crossrail’s £2.8bn lifeline from the public purse may not be enough to complete the project, MPs have warned.

A scathing report from the Public Accounts Committee accused the Department of Transport and Crossrail Limited’s “unacceptably laissez-faire” attitude to the growing cost of the project to taxpayers.

Crossrail, which will create a new east-west railway through London and beyond, has been beset by delays and overall cost has grown from an initial £14.8bn in 2010 to £17.6bn – an increase of 19%.

Services were due to start in December 2018 but the new projected start date is in 2020, though the PAC report said “we are not convinced that new services will start to run in 2020”.

Despite these failures the committee said that DfT and Crossrail Ltd “are unable to fully explain how the programme has been allowed to unravel”.

The MPs slammed DfT and Crossrail Ltd for being “unwilling to accept their responsibilities” for failures and for not identifying persons responsible and instead citing “system failures”.

“We are entirely unconvinced by this rationale as the department and Crossrail Ltd were responsible for creating and managing the system that enabled these failures to occur,” it said.

The report also criticised Transport for London  - joint sponsor of the project – for failing to ensure that the governance arrangements were robust enough.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “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 £2.8bn of extra funding has been provided for Crossrail but even that may not be enough.

“Accountability in the use of public money is of fundamental importance. The department should write to us urgently to explain what it, TfL and Crossrail Ltd 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.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “The department consistently challenged the leadership of Crossrail Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of TfL, on the delivery of this project.

“It is deeply disappointing that the PAC – 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.”

A TfL spokesperson said: “We have taken a number of actions to strengthen governance and oversight, including changes to both the Crossrail Ltd board and Crossrail executive team.”

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

In December 2018 the DfT agreed a £1.3bn loan to meet the rising cost of the project.

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