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Crossrail | TfL boss refuses to resign despite damning report

Crossrail pic

Transport for London (TfL) commissioner Mike Brown has insisted that he will not resign after an independent review of the delayed and over budget Crossrail project urged him to “consider his position”.

Brown told the Greater London Assembly that he is not considering stepping down and that he has the “full support” of London mayor Sadiq Khan. 

It follows publication of the Greater London Assembly’s damning report, Derailed: Getting Crossrail back on track, which accuses Brown of “downplaying” risks about the project during weekly project updates to Khan. The project missed its 2018 opening date is likely to open at least 12 months late.

The report adds that Brown ignored warnings about project risks from consultant Jacobs, which conducted an independent review of the project in January 2018 – eight months before the project’s delay and cost overrun was finally announced. 

When asked about the call for him to consider his position Brown said: “No, I am not reflecting on whether I am fit to be in the position. I believe I am. I have got the full support of the mayor and that is the end of that issue from my point of view.”

But he conceded that he had not yet gone through the Greater London Assembly report “in great granular detail” because it was “only issued a couple of days ago”.

Crossrail had been scheduled to open in early December last year but the date has been pushed back as a result of infrastructure delays and issues with signalling testing. The project’s new chief executive Mark Wild is expected to deliver a revised timeline for the project in the coming days. 

In response to claims that he was “downplaying” risks about the project during weekly project updates, Brown claimed that risks were highlighted in a “very clear” manner but that the Crossrail team were adamant that the previous December 9 opening date could be met.

He added: “A lot of the stuff that we got to put into briefings for the mayor frankly was not even legible and I had to ensure that it was communicated in a clear and consistent way with the mayor.”

Instead Brown – who was appointed commissioner for TfL in September 2015 - blamed ex-Crossrail chair Sir Terry Morgan and the Crossrail board for the project’s shortcomings.

“I think the buck stops with the independent chair and the independent board of Crossrail,” he said.

“The thing I regret most is that the balance being struck between supreme, understandable and appropriate advocacy of a project and everything it is delivering and the proper scrutiny of a non-executive board of the executive team, I think that balance was not struck correctly in the latter stages of the last year in the project. So I think that is something that is a lesson.”

In addition, when asked by committee chair Caroline Pigeon if he  regretted his failure to communication risks to the Greater London Authority in time, Brown said: “No, the messages reached them consistently. I meet with the mayor at least once a fortnight for regular TfL meetings.

“These concerns, emerging risks, were raised consistently at TfL board meetings over last year. At all of these sessions the emerging risks from the Crossrail progress were very explicitly highlighted.

“It was very clear that while there were risks […] the date of 9 December was being held. In all discussions, every single discussion with the then chair and chief executive of Crossrail was very clear that they were holding to 9 December date.”

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