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TfL boss urged to step down after 'ignoring' Crossrail risks

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Crossrail bosses failed to understand significant risks flagged up in an independent review of the project carried out by consultant Jacobs for Transport for London, according to a report produced for the Greater London Assembly.

Transport for London (TfL) commissioner Mike Brown has come under fire for “downplaying” risks about the project during weekly project updates to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, according to the Greater London Assembly’s report Derailed: Getting Crossrail back on track.

The report concludes that Brown should consider stepping down from his role at TfL.

“Given the strong evidence presented in this report, we recommend that the Commissioner reflects on whether he is fit to fulfil his role in TfL,” the report states.

“The Crossrail executive did not have the skills required at the later stages of the programme to adequately assess and understand risk as the project moved from construction to operations.”

The report adds: “The governance structure set up for Crossrail was innovative and allowed for various successes in the initial phases of the project. However, it was not fit for purpose to deliver such a complex infrastructure project, especially in its more mature stages.”

Brown, who was paid £375,000 in 2017/18, was appointed commissioner for TfL in September 2015.

A new opening date for Crossrail is expected to be announced before the end of this month, after the project missed its original opening date of December 2018.

Despite warnings as early as January 2018, the public was only made aware of the delay in August 2018. Since then the project cost has increased to £17.6bn.

Jacobs undertook a prelimiary review of the project in January 2018 and concluded that there was “significant risk to formal handover in July 2018 and possibly Stage 3 opening in December 2018”, it has been revealed.

A second review in March 2018 added that “[The schedule] is ambitious, contains virtually no float, and relies upon right-first time delivery at productivity rates that have not been sustained in the past. There is therefore a high risk that the start dates for Stage 3 opening, trial running and trial operations will not be achieved.”

London assembly member Caroline Pidgeon, who chairs its transport committee, said: “The new Elizabeth Line is expected to be a welcome new addition to the transport system in London, promising passengers faster and more pleasant journeys.

“That promise is now under threat. The announcement last August that the project is delayed is yet another example of a large catalogue of failed infrastructure projects – projects that are over time and over budget.

“In light of it all, it is frustrating that top Crossrail executives have not taken responsibility for their mismanagement of the project in its later stages. This despite the fact that they were taking home eye-watering salaries and bonuses to deliver the project.”

She added: “It is also difficult to accept why the independent reviewer, Jacobs, was ignored. Jacobs was paid to advise Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport (DfT), and help them scrutinise progress on the project. However, the risks of delay it raised were not sufficiently acted upon.”

“It is unacceptable that these risks were being downplayed by TfL Commissioner, Mike Brown.”

A TfL spokesperson said: “It is clear that the responsibility for the delay to the Crossrail project lies with the former management of Crossrail Ltd. It is entirely incorrect to suggest the transport commissioner, or anyone at TfL, kept any information from the mayor.

“The commissioner works to ensure that the mayor is kept informed of everything going on in transport in London and to ensure the information he receives is clear, consistent and accurate.

“As the commissioner made clear to the transport committee, it would not have been right to allow material to go to the mayor that was incorrect or inconsistent with information that the management of Crossrail Ltd themselves were presenting to TfL and the mayor in regular face to face meetings.” 

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

 

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