Crossrail chiefs face grilling as delay costs rack up
Crossrail bosses are facing a grilling from politicians after announcing a 10-month delay to the opening of the central section of Crossrail late last week.
Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, Caroline Pidgeon, has said she is seeking an urgent meeting with the Mayor Sadiq Khan, Transport for London (TfL) and Crossrail to discuss what has gone wrong.
Meanwhile, TfL is having to wrestle with the cost implications from the late opening, having budgeted for £143m of Crossrail fare revenue in the current financial year.
Explanations from Crossrail and its client TfL have so far put the reasons for delays down to the fit-out of stations and tunnels, leaving insufficient time available for full systems testing.
A TfL spokesman declined to comment on a Financial Times report that problems had been encountered specifically with finishing the stations at Whitechapel and Farringdon.
The spokesman said: “The difficulties have been across the board, at all stations and tunnels in the central section, but the real challenge has been in getting all the different control and communication systems linked up and talking to each other.”
Pidgeon expressed frustration at the timing of the Crossrail announcement. She said: “It is scarcely believable that the Mayor, TfL and Crossrail did not know of a likely delay a long time ago and chose not to let Londoners know sooner.
“The opening of Elizabeth line is rightly heralded as the biggest leap in London’s transport capacity for a generation. It will improve connections to the east and west of London and relieve crowding in central London. Passengers will be left to wait even longer for these benefits.
“We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Mayor’s Office, TfL and Crossrail to find out what has led to this delay and get some answers on behalf of Londoners.”
In response, the TfL spokesman confirmed that Crossrail had briefed its client on the developing pressures. “Crossrail and TfL have known about the delays to the programme for some time, but the decision to delay the opening until Autumn next year was only made last week,” the spokesman said.
TfL’s budget plan was predicated on the £15bn Crossrail project becoming fully operational and boosting fare receipts from December 2018.
London Assembly member and chair of its budget and performance committee, Gareth Bacon, said: “This is basically a shambles. TfL’s management has clearly known that they would delay the opening of Crossrail for some time and yet have been elusive when discussing their financial woes with the London Assembly and so with the people of London.
“TfL’s own business plan says that £143m of fare revenue was expected from the central section in 2018/19 alone. This now leaves an even bigger hole in TfL’s finances. It already has a £1bn operating deficit for this year. Hundreds of millions further will be lost in the coming year.”
TfL said it does not recognise the £143m figure, but was now working out the cost implications of the delay. A spokesperson said: “Crossrail is working to establish any additional impact on funding from the revised schedule.”