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'Crossfail' commissioner should quit, says London Assembly

23 April 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

The Transport for London (TfL) commissioner Mike Brown has been urged to “reflect on whether he is fit to continue his role” over failings that led to the delay of Crossrail.

The call came from the London Assembly Transport Committee, which has dubbed the project 'Crossfail'. It has released a report entitled Derailed: Getting Crossrail back on track, after the planned December 2018 launch of the Elizabeth Line was pushed back.

The report claimed that emails between Crossrail and TfL suggested that communications to the Mayor of London were “watered down” by Brown, instead of flagging risks to the timetable early.

It also alleged that concerns raised by the independent reviewer into the project as early as January 2018 were “ignored” and that the Crossrail executive did not have the skills required at the later stages of the project to adequately assess and understand risks as they became apparent.

In addition to asking Brown to consider his role, the report called on the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the TfL board to strengthen control over TfL and implement the processes required to keep them properly informed of progress.

The chair of the Transport Committee, Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon, said: “It is a complete tragedy that one of the most highly anticipated engineering projects the world has ever seen has found itself in a mess of overspending, mismanagement and an embarrassingly long delay.

“Crossrail was supposed to be the beacon of modern 21st century engineering but its name is now tarnished with shame in the eyes of the London taxpayer who will have to foot the bill until its completion.

“The inability of senior figures in the project to push past their obsession with a December 2018 launch date is one of the main reasons why their dream did not become a reality.

“It is shameful that nobody at a senior level is willing to take responsibility for the failure of the project thus far. Crossrail’s former chairman, Sir Terry Morgan stepped down, however, the evidence suggests that TfL commissioner, Mike Brown, was at the centre of decisions to dilute important information sent to the Mayor.

“Crossrail will provide immeasurable benefits to London, once launched but vital lessons must be learned by the Mayor, TfL and Crossrail so we all can bring this sorry chapter of the project’s journey to a close.”

A TfL spokesperson said: “It is clear that the responsibility for the delay to the Crossrail project lies with the former management of Crossrail Ltd. It is entirely incorrect to suggest the Transport Commissioner, or anyone at TfL, kept any information from the Mayor.

“The Commissioner works to ensure that the Mayor is kept informed of everything going on in transport in London and to ensure the information he receives is clear, consistent and accurate. 

“As the Commissioner made clear to the Transport Committee, it would not have been right to allow material to go to the Mayor that was incorrect or inconsistent with information that the management of Crossrail Ltd themselves were presenting to TfL and the Mayor in regular face to face meetings.

“Everyone involved is fully focussed on completing the project and opening the Elizabeth line to passengers as soon as possible.”

Comments

“As the Commissioner made clear to the Transport Committee, it would not have been right to allow material to go to the Mayor that was incorrect or inconsistent with information that the management of Crossrail Ltd themselves were presenting to TfL and the Mayor in regular face to face meetings."

Does this not prove the point ?

The Commissioners role is oversight is it not ?

If his information was not consistent with the management team information then surely discussions should have been had, not changed or watered down to "keep the peace"

The apparent mis-management of Crossrail is akin to the floundering of Carillion and the "cover-up" but the auditors "to keep the peace" and of course, the money rolling in

Darren Allport, 25 April 2019

It would be unsurprising to learn that project reports filtered upward to Executive Leadership were not summarised and précised. However, the reporting to date doesn't give any clue as to where any 'blame' might lie or where any lessons can be learned. So far all those diligent professionals down in the hands-on roles are getting a collective bad press by association - this seems likely to be entirely undeserved.
It would be amazing to learn that a project as complex as Crossrail was not driven from a critical-path schedule programme and subject to enduring and live risk management processes and budgetary controls and progressive updates. Why have we not heard more specific news of any 'Early Warning' notices and the like that should have been precursors to possible delays and/or over-runs?

Steve, 25 April 2019

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