Crossrail won’t open until 2020
Crossrail won’t see trains operating on the central portion of the Elizabeth Line until 2020, as bosses refused to give a precise completion date for the project.
Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild told Public Accounts Committee MPs that there was “no opportunity” to open the railway in 2019, adding “we very very much want to get this done in 2020”.
Chairman Tony Meggs clarified that this meant the third phase of the project, which will see trains operate on the central portion of the line between from Paddington to Abbey Wood.
Updating MPs on progress, Wild said his team had spent a lot of time building a logical sequence of the work with two critical paths – a software path for the trains and signalling systems and another for the stations.
He said his team was now working with tier one contractors to ensure that the productivity assumptions they have made were valid and would present a window of when the line will open to the board at the end of this month.
Wild added: “I am putting all my effort and my team's effort into looking forward. Because the faster we get an opening sequence, the more we will reduce the capital overspend and importantly we will get a programme to bite into.”
Wild, Meggs, and permanent transport secretary Bernadette Kelly faced a grilling from MPs, particularly Conservative MP and former management consultant Lee Rowley, about who in the Crossrail setup had been responsible for delays which have led to the agreement of an additional £2.15bn in funding for the project.
In response, Meggs said: "This is a project of enormous complexity. There was optimism bias. This was a team that had overcome enormous challenges over a 10-year-period. This was a challenge too far. That optimism bias created an environment where not every risk was surfaced appropriately."
Rowley, who pressed for the names of who was responsible, argued that any optimism bias was responsibility of the leadership team and indicated a failure of the oversight board which was watching over leadership team.
But Meggs countered: "I disagree with the conclusion that you can single out any particular layer or individual or group of individuals and say they are solely responsible.”
Wild added: "The failure is the lack of understanding of the sheer scale of this."