News | Published July 21 2019

Public Accounts Committee predicts Crossrail will continue to exceed budget

The Public Accounts Committee of MP’s predicts Crossrail will continue to exceed its budget.

The Crossrail programme is already behind schedule and has come under fire from the PAC, who said it had “let down” commuters.

Crossrail, Europe's largest infrastructure project, also came under scrutiny from the National Audit Office in May  for being late and over budget, amid accusations that its leaders had set an unrealistic completion timetable.

Initially estimated to have been completed by December 2018, the line is now expected to open in March 2021.

Construction on the Crossrail route, officially named the Elizabeth Line after the Queen, began in 2009 and will connect Reading with the eastern town of Shenfield via Central London over a total of 41 calling stations.

Twenty-six miles of new tunnels connecting the major transport hubs at Paddington and Liverpool Street are being constructed as part of the project and Crossrail says that Paddington will now be directly connected to Canary Wharf with a 17 minute journey.

An estimated 200 million passengers will use the new line every year, increasing central London's rail capacity by 10 per cent.

£14.8 billion was the budget set aside for the project in 2010, and it has since exceeded that by £2.6 billion.

The Department for Transport insists it responded “swiftly and effectively” when Crossrail’s issues came to light.

A DfT spokesperson said: “The Department consistently challenged the leadership of Crossrail Ltd - a wholly-owned subsidiary of Transport for London - on the delivery of the project.

"When problems became clear, the department acted swiftly and effectively, changing the leadership of the board and strengthening governance structures.

"The new Crossrail Ltd management team has now produced a new plan to open the railway, and the department and TfL will continue to scrutinise progress to ensure this happens as soon as possible.”

Despite the project’s difficulties thus far, its leaders, including former chief executive Andrew Wolstenholme, will still be awarded bonuses, which has invited criticism from the PAC.

The Committee now doubts the DfT's capacity to “oversee major rail projects” in future.

According to the PAC’s report, Crossrail Ltd allocated the required work on the Elizabeth Line to a total of 36 contractors, prompting logistical issues.

The PAC said: ”While the Department [for Transport] is now working to learn and apply the lessons from what went wrong with Crossrail, it should acknowledge that this is far from an unfamiliar tale.

"We have witnessed cost increases and delays on major rail projects several times over the past few years and the department still does not appear to have got a grip on the problem.”

A spokesperson for Crossrail responded, saying: "The Elizabeth Line is one of the most complex infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK and we recognise many of the challenges raised in the Public Accounts Committee report.

"The new leadership team's plan to complete the Elizabeth Line continues to be kept under careful review. Progress against our plan will become clearer in 2020, once we start to fully test the operational railway and integrate the train and signalling software.

"We are fully focused on completing the Elizabeth Line and ensuring a safe and reliable passenger service as quickly as possible.”

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
July 21 2019

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