Sir Terry Morgan has admitted that he expects the delays to Crossrail will cost him his job as chairman of HS2 Ltd, the body set up to deliver the £56bn high speed rail line between London and Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.
Morgan, who has been chair of Crossrail’s delivery body Crossrail Ltd since 2009, heard late on Friday that his job was on the line. He took on the role of HS2 Ltd chair at the beginning of August.
On Saturday the Financial Times reported that Morgan was lined up to be “sacked” from HS2. Following the publication of the article, Morgan undertook a phone interview with the BBC.
At the end of August Crossrail confirmed that Elizabeth Line services between Paddington in central London and Abbey Wood in the south east of the capital will not open until autumn 2019. The line was originally scheduled to open this December. In October, the government provided an additional £350M to the London Mayor’s Office to deliver Crossrail.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme on Saturday afternoon, Morgan was asked whether he was expecting to be asked to step down. He said: “Not formally as yet. There was a piece in the Financial Times this morning, and I did get confirmation late yesterday afternoon that that was a leak. As far as I’m concerned, I’m expecting that to be confirmed more formally in the next few days.”
He was then asked why he was “being forced out” after just four months in the role.
Morgan said: “I can only but assume, because I’ve not yet been told, that because HS2 is such a critically important programme and with the sense of disappointment around the performance of Crossrail, that it was considered to be too risky for a programme like HS2 to continue in my role as chairman.”
He said the situation left him with “mixed feelings” saying he felt a sense of responsibility for Crossrail’s position, but on HS2 felt he had a lot of experience and knowledge to give the programme and was disappointed he wouldn’t now have the opportunity to do this.
Morgan said HS2 was still very early in its development and could not be compared to Crossrail in terms of budget and delay difficulties.
He added: “On Crossrail I can’t deny I’m disappointed we had so many challenges so late in the programme, particularly on system integration. And that’s because there are some tremendously gifted engineers who have built what I know will be a fantastic programme. However there’s been some unfortunate comment about who knew what and when about whether the programme on Crossrail was running late. I’m very confident that Crossrail behaved properly. There will be and there are plenty of document that set out exactly what happened and when. And I do hope these documents will be released soon for others to understand. I don’t understand why all the comments that have been made, have been made a they are, because some of them are just factually not correct.
”Obviously it’s insinuation that says in the detail, although the station build did run a little late, what most people don’t realise is that the rolling stock, the trains, are a contract that is not a Crossrail contract, they’re a Transport for London (TfL) contract, I’m not responsible for the rolling stock and nor are any of the executive. I personally now realise that TfL were advised that this train contract was running 18 months late and had known that for at least eight months and that to me, today, still feels to be the case.”
Morgan said train testing still isn’t underway.
A TfL spokesperson said: “Crossrail Ltd is responsible for the completion of the new railway, including integrating signalling and railway systems. The trains are already successfully serving parts of the Elizabeth line route in the east and the west. Their procurement has had no bearing on the fact that the completion of the line, including tunnel fit out, the new stations and a range of safety critical railway systems was not completed in time by Crossrail Ltd for a December opening. Work on stations and other vital infrastructure is progressing, but remains at varying degrees of completion, as reported by Crossrail Ltd to the TfL Board last month.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We do not comment on personnel matters.