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Crossrail ordered to reveal spend after ‘laissez-faire’ attitude to £3bn overrun

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Bosses at the Department for Transport (DfT) and Crossrail Ltd have been accused of having a “laissez-fair” attitude to the project’s £3bn overspend.

In a damning report by the House of Commons public accounts committee, MPs demanded project bosses reveal exactly how an additional £2.8bn of funding will be used to complete the line.

The committee also revealed that it was “sceptical” that the project will be delivered by the revised date of 2020 and added that it was “not convinced […] that the additional £2.8bn of funding provided will be enough”.

In July 2018 the government announced an additional £590M of funding for the programme. After further cost increases and delays, in December 2018 the government announced £2.15bn of additional funding, bringing the total budget to £17.6bn – this is an increase of approximately £2.8bn on the £14.8 billion funding agreed in 2010.

As a result the committee has demanded to see exactly how the additional funding will be spent to ensure the project remains “value for money”.

The committee also criticises the DfT and Crossrail Ltd for failing to take responsibility for “the costs of this project [being] allowed to spiral out of control”.

“Despite acknowledging that there were major failings in the programme, the Department and Crossrail Limited have been unwilling to accept their responsibilities for the significant delays and cost overruns of the programme,” the report states.

“Neither are willing to identify who should be held responsible for these failures, and simply assert that there are systems failures. We are entirely unconvinced by this rationale as the Department and Crossrail Limited were responsible for creating and managing the system that enabled these failures to occur.”

Likewise, the report slams the lack of explanation for the cost overruns and delays. “It is unacceptable that the Department and Crossrail Limited are unable to identify the root causes of the programme unravelling so quickly and so disastrously,” the report adds.

The report adds that delays to the project “must have been” apparent long before the electrical fault at Pudding Mill Lane in 2017 – which is often given as the cause of Crossrail’s failure to opening in December 2018.

It says a “fixation on a delivery deadline of December 2018 led to warning signs that the programme was in trouble being missed or ignored”.

As a result the committee concluded that its members “find it difficult to believe that it was not evident before the public announcement in August 2018 that the central section of the railway would not open on time”.

Crossrail Ltd and the DfT have now been given six months to respond to the report detailing what steps have been taken to improve accountability and transparency on the project, as well as revealing a new spending plan.

In response DfT spokesperson said steps have already been taken to address “oversight”.

“As soon as the company admitted delay, the Department and TfL acted swiftly to identify lessons, change the leadership of the Crossrail Ltd Board, and strengthen governance and oversight,” said the spokesperson. 

Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild confirmed that an update on the projects timeline would be announced later this month. 

“Since becoming CEO of Crossrail in November last year I have overseen an intensive review of the programme,” Wild added. ”It is clear that more work is required to complete the infrastructure, the integration of the train, signalling and station systems and to undertake the extensive testing that will be necessary to open a safe and reliable railway.

“We are making progress in all these areas and, in addition, we have put in place an enhanced governance structure and new leadership team to strengthen the programme.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I hope Network Rail are also included in this. They are responsible for a greater track milage than TfL and, at the published opening date, had not let the construction contracts for three of the stations.

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