A stringent mechanism to ensure senior executives working on major transport projects are held to account for delays must be put in place, Transport for London commissioner Mike Brown has said.
The statement was made as he spoke alongside London mayor Sadiq Khan at the London Assembly Transport committee in relation to the Crossrail delay announcement.
Brown said the Crossrail had faced some “extraordinary” technical challenges throughout construction, but that they had been tackled, dealt with and moved on. But he said there was a sense that they believed “a little bit too much in the supreme advocacy of the programme and where it was going to”.
“I think, in talking about governance, going forward and in thinking about these types of projects, there has to be a clear distinction between flag, banner waving or cheerleading for a project, and also properly fulfilling your role to hold an executive team to account and to hold certainty that delivery is on track,” he said.
“In my judgement, that is a very important series of distinctions that need to be enshrined in any future project.”
Brown and Khan had been summoned to appear before the committee over their parts in knowing about the delay to Crossrail’s opening before it was formally announced on the 29 August. Both deny knowing about the delay earlier than the August date.
Ex Crossrail chief executive Sir Terry Morgan recently revealed that the possibility of a delay was to presented to sponsors at a meeting on the 26 July.
But in front of the Transport committee, both Khan and Brown stuck rigidly to accounts that said Morgan had not disclosed the delayed opening date at the meeting.
Brown said he was “absolutely clear” in his memory of the events on the 26 July, and Khan said Morgan had “mis-remembered” what he had said.
Committee chair Caroline Pidgeon raised the issue of a slide which had been shown at the 26 July meeting which said the line would not open in 2018 and there was only a 10% chance of it opening between February and May 2019. In reply Khan said concerns had been raised, but a verbal confirmation that the line would be open in December had been given by Morgan.
“We had the advantage of the verbal briefing from the chief executive then, and you don’t,” said Khan. “You only have the slide in isolation.”
When asked that given the contents of the slide, they had not been concerned about the opening date, Brown said they had been concerned, but it was very important to distinguish between being concerned and being formally notified of the date slipping.
“If we had been formally told that the project was not going to deliver at the end of December then the obligation is absolutely clear on Crossrail to promptly issue to sponsors a Adverse Event Notice,” said Brown. “No such advent event notice was issued at that time and therefore that absolutely reinforces the nature of the conversation we had at that meeting at the end of July.”
Khan strongly denied that there had been any collusion between the attendees at the meeting to cover up the claims made by Morgan.
“There is no collusion between the commissioner and I about what was said in the meeting on the 26 July,” said Khan.