The members of the London Assembly have slammed Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, of misleading the public about what he knew regarding a nine-month Crossrail delay that enraged the commuters when it was announced last summer.
The transport committee of the Assembly has been reviewing the delay. It has already sent a damning letter to Khan. The said letter says that the accounts that it has heard regarding the nine-month delay to the £15.4 billion project have been “partial and contradictory.”
On the 31st of August, Crossrail revealed that the Elizabeth Line would be delayed until Autumn 2019 because of delays in signalling testing The line will connect Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east through tunnels in central London.
The London Mayor has repeatedly said that neither he nor the TfL was aware of the need for a new opening date until a meeting with the Crossrail board on the 29th of August.
At the start of September, he stated: “I am extremely disappointed, frustrated and angry by the delay.”
However, the committee noted to a number of meetings that were held between Crossrail and the TfL and the Department for Transport (DfT) starting from the 19th of July in which they say that the delay would have been made clear.
It stated: “We accept the assurances you have personally given to the Assembly that you did not know the specific details of the delay until two days before the announcement.”
It added: “However, given the evidence we have received we feel it is highly likely that you were informed on or soon after 19 July that there was very likely to be a delay. It may have been justified to wait for clearer information before a public announcement. However, it is arguable that maintaining that you were completely misinformed is misleading.”
The committee continued: “If in fact, you were uninformed, we can only assume this was to allow you – and ministers – a degree of ‘plausible deniability’ about the inevitable delay in the launch date. This is completely inappropriate and damages the reputations of all involved.”
A spokesperson for Sadiq Khan stated: “The mayor did not hide his anger and disappointment when Crossrail Ltd announced that the central section of the project wouldn’t be opening until Autumn next year – anger and frustration made worse by the length of the delay and how late in the project it was announced.”
He added: “The mayor has expressed his frustrations directly to the leadership of Crossrail – both privately and during meetings in public.”
He continued: “The mayor has now asked Crossrail Ltd and TfL to look into whether the joint sponsors should have been made aware of the revised schedule at an earlier date, and whether the right scrutiny and oversight is in place as the project moves to its final phase.
The spokesperson concluded: “As part of this, the mayor has asked the TfL Commissioner to arrange for an independent review of Crossrail’s governance, to report next month.”
A Crossrail spokesperson for stated: “Crossrail has been reporting cost and schedule pressures to sponsors. At the Crossrail board on 19 July a schedule risk was flagged and the executive were tasked to report back and present a formal recommendation to a special meeting of the board in August. At the Crossrail board meeting on 29 August, it was confirmed that it was now no longer possible to meet the December 2018 opening date. This was communicated to sponsors on 30 August and announced at the earliest opportunity on 31 August.”
Meanwhile, last night Sky News reported that Terry Morgan, the Crossrail chief, will possibly step down from his position by the end of the year. Previously, he informed the Assembly that he has not faced any pressure to step down over the Elizabeth Line delay.
The DfT and TfL both turned down requests for comment regarding the matter.