'No-one fully understood Crossrail complexity', says CEO
Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild
No-one fully understood the complexity of Crossrail and there is “lots of work still to do” to complete it, the CEO of the delayed project has told politicians.
Appearing before the London Transport Committee, Mark Wild said that the sheer complexity of Crossrail meant that although it was clear by July last year that opening the Elizabeth Line before December would have been very difficult, it only gradually became clear that it would have been impossible.
But he added: “If I had known then what I know now, I would have set the fire alarm off.”
His comments came after former Crossrail chairman Sir Terry Morgan attacked the Mayor of London and Transport for London (TfL) and insisted that he had made it “very clear” Crossrail wasn’t going to be ready for its scheduled December 2018 opening.
Sir Terry told the Committee: “To my mind there was a very clear indication that there was an understanding that we were not going to be able to deliver Crossrail in 2018.”
He said: “I saw the Mayor on the 26th [July] and I don’t know what other interpretation in English terms you can give to the fact that we said delivery of Crossrail in 2018 was not feasible. Full stop. There was no other information provided that alluded to the fact that we could deliver in 2018.”
He also claimed that TfL “amended” weekly updates on the project’s progress before they went to the Mayor of London.
“They were not based on the Crossrail input. They were amended by TfL. Nothing ever went to the Mayor that first had to undergo some degree of scrutiny,” he said.
Having delivered that message, he then claimed that much of August was spent delivering a communications strategy on how the news about Crossrail’s delay should be handled before it was confirmed at a board meeting in late August.
He also alleged that no email correspondence relating to the strategy would be found because it “went offline”.
However, Wild said he did not believe there had been any attempt to cover up what was happening with Crossrail.
He said: ““The truth is this project is so large and so complex, there will be plenty of learnings for future projects about the control of system integration. I don’t think one person has hidden anything. I don’t think there is any lack of transparency.
“I think what has happened is the enormity and complexity of Crossrail – the stations, the trains, the software integration, the signalling systems, the control systems, the interface with Network Rail – the truth is the complexity was clearly not fully understood. What was understood at this point was there is an evolving risk that is starting to crystallise about the opening.”
He also confirmed that the two critical paths involving the stations and the train systems were heavily delayed.
“None of the stations could have been ready for December. None of them. There is a huge amount of work to do. These are the world’s most complex railway stations and the first real articulation of the digital railway. The critical paths of the stations was not really understood.”
Tunnel fit out still unfinished
Meanwhile, the complex integration of the train-borne systems and integration of signalling is “very compressed and late”. Fit out of the tunnels is also unfinished, he added.
He said: “There is lots of work still to do. Even though we are going to start dynamic testing in about a week’s time, there are still thousands of hours of construction work still to do in the tunnel and we are going to have to work very carefully to sequence the work.
“To be fair to me, Terry, Heidi, the Mayor, the commissioner, I don’t think any of us really understood at that time or were being communicated to these many, many delays that were accumulating in quite a difficult situation. To be fair to the executive team, who I think are absolutely superb, nobody has ever done this before and we should maybe give the executive team a little bit of a break.”
Responding later in the hearing to Sir Terry’s claims, deputy mayor Heidi Alexander said: “I never questioned the provenance of the weekly written material that was emailed to me. I have no reason to believe that changes were made by TfL to material that was produced by Crossrail so before we set a hare running with this, we should recognise that this is an assertion being made by Terry Morgan.”
A TfL spokesperson said: "TfL produced regular reports for the Mayor, drafted with input from Crossrail Limited and London Underground’s Elizabeth line team. These were TfL's reports and not those of Crossrail. The reports provided a snapshot of the status of the project. These were in addition to the formal processes in place for Crossrail Limited to provide updates including meetings with the Mayor, TfL Board meetings and Sponsor Board meetings.
"All final versions of the report were provided to Crossrail Limited."