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Haste's sudden departure baffles Crossrail observers

CROSSRAIL BOSS Norman Haste is to quit as chief executive of the £8bn scheme as soon as a successor 'has been identified', the project confirmed on Monday.

The surprise announcement came as the Queen's Speech to Parliament this week revealed that the Crossrail bill would remain in the government's legislative programme for the year.

'Now is a good time to hand over to someone else who can see Crossrail through the approval stages and into construction, ' Haste told NCE.

'I'll have a couple of months off once my successor is appointed, then we'll see. But I have no plans to retire.' Haste has been chief executive of Cross London Rail Links (CLRL), the 50/50 joint venture between Transport for London and the Department for Transport, promoting the project for three years. His decision to leave comes as Parliament gears up to scrutinise the project following the second reading of the hybrid bill, which is expected before the summer recess.

A spokesman for CLRL played down the signifi cance of Haste's departure. He said Haste would have had 'a fairly small role during the parliamentary proceedings, ' as would his successor. The project hopes that Royal Assent for the bill can be achieved before February 2007.

Haste made his name running the Sizewell B power station and the Second Severn Crossing projects in the early 1990s.

Before taking on the Crossrail challenge he saw the Heathrow Terminal 5 project through the longest public inquiry in the UK, but left before construction got under way.

His departure from Crossrail has puzzled industry observers.

Organisational changes within CLRL were suggested by some observers as a possible reason behind Haste's departure.

Others suggested that continuing uncertainty about the project's fi ances might have exhausted Haste's patience.

'Norman is a man who delivers, he's a go-getter' said one senior consultant. 'If Crossrail is heading for the back burner he'll be looking for something more challenging.'

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