Costly delays now ‘the norm’ for major rail projects

19 Jul 19
Taxpayers and commuters have been let down by the persistent delays and growing costs of Crossrail, MPs have said.

The Public Accounts Committee said it has lost confidence in the government’s ability to oversee major rail projects with delays and added costs becoming “par for the course”.

Crossrail, which will create a new east-west railway through London and beyond, has already gone £2.8bn over its original budget and a central section of the line has been delayed by more than two years.

The PAC report, out today, accused the Department for Transport of devolving accountability for taxpayers’ money to the board and executive of Crossrail Limited – the company responsible for delivering the project.

MPs noted that the DfT has a track record of cost increases and delays on major rail projects and said “it still does not appear to have a grip on the problem.”

Until the entire line is complete – which could be spring 2022 – passengers will not receive the full benefits of the railway and Transport for London’s rail fares will be limited, the report said.

Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC, said: “Crossrail is two years late and £2.8bn over budget. Unfortunately, delays and being over budget now appear to be par for the course for major rail projects.

“Crossrail Ltd has failed to understand the complexity and risks of Crossrail, to manage its main contractors, and to integrate different strands of the programme successfully.

“The DfT is ultimately responsible for the use of taxpayers’ money on Crossrail; it still does not appear to have a grip on the problems. It has also failed to get a grip of Crossrail Ltd, continuing to pay its executives bonuses, despite the programme going off track.”

PAC noted that the chief executive of Crossrail Ltd was paid a bonus of £481,000 for performance in 2015-16 and £160,000 for 2016-17.

A spokesperson for Crossrail said: “The Elizabeth line is one of the most complex infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK and we recognise many of the challenges raised in the Public Accounts Committee report.

“We are fully focused on completing the Elizabeth line and ensuring a safe and reliable passenger service as quickly as possible.”

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

“When problems became clear the department acted swiftly and effectively, changing the leadership of the Board and strengthening governance structures.

“The new Crossrail Ltd management team has now produced a new plan to open the railway, and the department and TfL will continue to scrutinise progress to ensure this happens as soon as possible.”

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