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Terry Morgan: Climbing on board

Terry Morgan stepped down as chief executive of PPP company Tube Lines in June to join the Crossrail team as non-executive chairman.

For the last six years Terry Morgan has lived and breathed the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly Lines on London’s underground network. As chief executive of the Tube Lines consortium responsible for maintaining and upgrading these lines, the buck stopped with him when it came to safety and performance.

As far as seven days a week jobs go, his was pretty full on. He had a daily service to provide and a nightly engineering programme to manage. He had a client to satisfy, a public to please, staff to motivate, a business to run, shareholders to report to and a mind-boggling number of performance indicators to outperform.

All that has been exchanged for a three day a week, non-executive role and a corner office at Crossrail’s 28th floor HQ in London’s Canary Wharf. It may be just around the corner from his old Tube Lines’ desk, but life today is clearly very different.

Passion and enthusiasm

Yet even without executive responsibilities, Morgan has clearly not lost any of his passion and enthusiasm for a challenge. His new role means balancing his desire to be in the thick of things, sleeves rolled up, with the need to step back and allow others to run the project. He admits he is still learning to find this balance.

But Morgan will always retain his genuine excitement and fascination for big projects and the people that make them happen. Assembling the right organisations, with the people and teams and processes to make them function properly, is what drives him. At Crossrail today, that is one of the biggest challenges.

“I am satisfied that we are putting in the right tools to manage this huge project and I am happy with the decisions that have been made around how this programme is going to be run,” he says.

“I am happy with the decisions that have been made around how this programme is going to be run.”

Terry Morgan

“There has been some criticism, unjustified in my view, that we could have been in a better place some time ago,” he adds, referring to the project’s inability to press forward immediately after Royal Assent last year.

“But we have just been through an external review, and that acknowledged a significant change in pace and progress.”

The review he refers to is the project’s recent progress check by the powerful Treasury Major Projects Review Group, which is on hand to continually monitor whether tax payers’ cash is being spent wisely. By all accounts the group liked what it saw, and was particularly pleased that, after a relatively slow start, the project is now moving ahead.

Clearly the appointments of Morgan in June and chief executive Rob Holden prior to that in April have kick-started this change in pace. But Morgan is clear that there are still changes for Holden to make as he assembles the right team to take the project from planning through design and into construction.

“The team that he [Holden] inherited did a fantastic job getting the project through the legislative process,” he explains. “But now we need a team that will take this project through to 2017. It needs different skills and that is why there have been changes. It is no criticism of the people − it just requires different skills.”

Crossrail route: whole route

Crossrail route: whole route

He points out that, while all the key programme partner and delivery partner appointments have been made, there is still some way to go before everything is locked in together. This process will require a bolstered client team.

“Crossrail in my opinion has to increase its own competence to manage these programmes,” he says. “I just think that to manage a project of this nature you have to have some core competences to have the confidence to ensure that what is being done is entirely in line with the programme.”So clearly the organisation is not complete yet and there are still a great number of issues to resolve.

Building momentum

But Morgan is pleased to report that, day by day, the momentum is starting to build within the project. “This is a project that is timetabled to be delivered in 2017,” he says. “But with big projects of this nature, if you don’t get pace in the early days, inevitably it puts pressure on the project. Getting momentum is really, really important.”

One of Morgan’s key tasks will be to leverage the political and business relationships he built up throughout his time at Tube Lines to bolster support for the project among stakeholders and to ensure that good communication is maintained. This is particularly important right now as we head towards a general election, not least since the Conservatives may review and scrutinise the project should they win power.

However, the task is, he says, made easier by the current overwhelming cross-party support for Crossrail led by London Mayor Boris Johnson and transport secretary Lord Adonis.

“With big projects of this nature, if you don’t get pace in the early days, inevitably it puts pressure on the project. Getting momentum is really, really important.”

Terry Morgan

“Do I fear a Tory review of Crossrail? No. Do I have to ensure that we argue our case? Yes,” explains Morgan. “Any change has got uncertainty about it. The key for us is to present Crossrail as a high quality project, so that when people start looking at priorities they see that this is a project which, in terms of both necessity and quality, passes the test.”

Morgan is committed to making sure that, given the huge and growing competing pressures on the public purse, Crossrail remains in people’s minds as a good investment and a project that will boost the economy and deliver long-term benefits to the whole of the UK.

Yet he is also clear that any lingering threat of the project being stopped does not keep him awake at night. On the contrary, his biggest concern is that the project continues to demonstrate every day that it is capable of delivering what it has promised to deliver.

“What we need to do is gain the confidence of our stakeholders by demonstrating that this project is being well run and that, when there are issues that we need to share, we are willing to do that,” he explains. “That is part and parcel of my role, giving Rob [Holden] the space and the capability to run this programme.”

The recent Treasury review that Morgan and Holden led was, he explains, not just a review of Crossrail but also of the project stakeholders and, particularly, of how all parties are working together. He says that, while no one is getting complacent, the results showed that already the new team is getting the right messages across.

“Our house style is very open and honest about what we are doing and I’d like to think that was recognised in terms of the way we did the programme review,” he says. “In these processes people are either looking for you to fail or looking to encourage you to succeed − in our case it was definitely the latter. “

Crossrail information centre

Contact point: The Crossrail information centre at Tottenham Court Road

Morgan is aware that, when spending such huge amounts of public money, keeping the project sponsors from Transport for London and the Department for Transport on board and supportive will be vital every step of the way. But he is equally aware of the need to also carry the public along with the project − not least as many will be subject to quite significant inconvenience during the construction phase.

“We do have to get out and tell people what we are doing and why,” he says, pointing out that the project has already created an information centre close to Tottenham Court Road to help explain the project to locals. “If all that people experience of Crossrail is the disruption, tolerance is not going to be very high.”

Morgan is also hugely committed to delivering a community and skills legacy from the project. Having set up a skills training centre in Stratford while with Tube Lines, he sees the soon-to-be-launched tunnelling academy as central to Crossrail’s opportunity to create long-term change.

“Do I fear a Tory review of Crossrail? No. Do I have to ensure that we argue our case? Yes.”

Terry Morgan

He expects that this facility will open next year and that construction will start this year as soon as he has finalised the business case. “For me the social impact is really important,” he explains.

“If we do not take the chance it will be a wasted opportunity. The academy is high on the radar for project impact.”

Initiatives such as this will also be critical to engaging and assisting the supply chain, helping not just to boost the availability of skills but also to ramp performance and efficiency and so drive more value into the project.

“On a project of this scale we need the supply chain’s expertise,” he says. “This is a huge project and we expect that people will come forward with commercial propositions, but we are looking for them to share their knowledge with us.”

All sorts of question marks still remain about the procurement process and issues such as where best risk should lie − not least since it is clear that on a job this complex there will inevitably be changes and unexpected events to contend with. But Morgan is content that they are assembling the team that will get to this point very quickly.

“What I want is to have confidence that we know it is going to get done on time and on budget and that the quality of the result is something that we will all feel satisfied with,” he explains. “It sounds like motherhood and apple pie but it can’t be any other way.”

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