Crossrail under scrutiny from National Audit Office
Crossrail officials have come under fire from the government’s spending watchdog for hiking up unnecessary costs into the landmark programme.
The project, aimed at linking Reading with Essex via London, was allocated an initial £14.8 billion budget with a target completion date of December 2018.
However, costs have since risen to £17.6 billion to date, with delays putting its completion back as far as March 2021.
The National Audit Office declared in a report that “a compressed schedule, the contractual model, the loss of downward pressure on costs, and the absence of an achievable plan” ultimately made on-schedule completion of the infrastructure project “unrealistic”, with some issues even starting to surface as far back as 2015.
The report revealed that costs had largely increased across the majority of the rail link’s 36 contracts, with an additional £2.5 billion in costs being accumulated through changes to design and installation between 2013 and 2018.
“Throughout delivery, and even as pressures mounted, Crossrail Ltd clung to the unrealistic view that it could complete the programme to the original timetable, which has had damaging consequences,” National Audit Office head, Amyas Morse, told The Telegraph.
“While we cannot make an overall assessment of value for money until Crossrail is complete, there have been a number of choices made in the course of this project that have clearly damaged public value.”
The Department for Transport, one of the bodies overseeing the project expressed its “deep disappointment” in the delays to the programme and excessive overspending.
A spokesman for Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who has previously come under fire for keeping the public uninformed about the project delays, declared that Khan was “deeply angry and frustrated” when informed of these developments in 2018.
The spokesman also revealed that Mr. Khan was “fully supportive” of the National Audit Office in its scrutiny of Crossrail.
In the wake of such criticism, however, Crossrail chief-executive, Mark Wild, remains optimistic that the necessary measures have been put in place to turn the project around, after intervention from the Department for Transport and Transport for London in the wake of the delays.
“A new leadership team and enhanced governance structure has been put in place to strengthen oversight of the Crossrail programme and put the project back on track,” Wild told The Telegraph.