News

Crossrail won’t open until 2020

7 March 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

Mark Wild

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.”

MPs grilling

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."

Comments

Yet again those on 'top dollar' seek to blame the 'poor bloody infantry' using obfuscatory language- e.g 'productivity assumptions', 'not every risk was surfaced appropriately'. Sounds like the same 'optimism bias' displayed by the current Transport Sec with last May's clearly overoptimistic rail timetable, the shortcutting of proper procurement for 'No Deal' cross-channel capacity, the Great Western electrification (lack of 'site investigation' and evaluation?), etc.
Unfortunately, yet again, this looks bad for the construction industry. I guess it's bad form to criticise bad clients- professionals (like CIOB members) need to tell truth to power.

Brian Wood FCIOB, 7 March 2019

Mark Wild is just another insider .

There is no effective Leadership whatsoever on this project.

Mates reporting to mates !😂

Steve Crelley, 8 March 2019

When they say '2020' there seems no reason to assume this is early in 2020, more reason to assume it means by the end of 2020 and plenty of reason to wonder if it won't even be in 2020, since the actual project timeline has now lost its credibility.

Paul Reeve, 10 March 2019

Trouble is, if the optimism bias weren't included nothing would get started as every big capital project wouldn't get past the 'value for money' stage. And the cycle continues for overrunning and spirally cost projects - which then gets chucked at us rank and file in thye Industry. Would we look at the Channel Tunnel, Heathrow T5, Sydney Opera House etc now as failures or value for money? We need to stop kidding each other - Clients need to really understand that cost and time in construction is variable when we factor out some of risks not being realised (sorry, use a degree of optimism bias) - and as a construcution sector we need to stop telling the client what they want to hear to win the work (get it past the value for money economics test).

Richard Blair, 11 March 2019

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