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‘Forensic focus’ needed if Elizabeth Line is to avoid further delays

Deniz Huseyin
08 February 2021
Crossrail will run from Reading and Heathrow (West) through to Central London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood (East).
Crossrail will run from Reading and Heathrow (West) through to Central London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood (East).

TfL must take a “forensic” approach to ensure the Elizabeth Line is finished within the new timescale and revised budget, says the London Assembly Transport Committee. The Crossrail team will have to address challenges linked to Covid-19 by deploying project management, staff supervision and financial forecasting, says the cross-party committee.

The east-west rail line has consistently missed deadlines and run over budget. In August 2020 Crossrail warned that the project would cost as much as £18.7bn - £1.1bn above the financial package agreed in December 2018 (and £450m more than the upper end of the range announced in November 2019). The current estimated cost of the project is about £3.8bn more than anticipated in 2010. 

TfL assumed overall control of Crossrail in October 2020, with the Government announcing at the end of last year that it would give the project up to £825m.

The central tunnel section from Paddington to Abbey Wood, which was meant to have opened in 2018, is now due to open in the first half of 2022. The full east to west service is due to open in 2023.

The London Assembly’s Transport Committee identifies five key areas that TfL and the Mayor need to focus on:

Refining Crossrail’s new leadership and governance structure

The financial stability of TfL and Crossrail

Staff wellbeing and proper staff deployment

Evaluate lessons learned and develop better ways of working

Clear timelines to include delays like Covid-19 impacts and extra costs

The committee has also urged TfL to set out how it plans to avoid repeating the same mistakes made earlier in the project. 

On 1 December 2020 Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander indicated that the most recent project delays, taking the estimated opening date from 2021 to “the first half of 2022”, had increased the estimated loss of revenue from fares from £1.3bn to £1.5bn. Taking the projected overspends and revenue losses together, the total budget impact of Crossrail’s delays is likely to be £5.3 billion, estimates the committee.

Dr Alison Moore, chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, said: “Now that Crossrail has been handed over to the Mayor and TfL to deliver, it is vital that they adopt a Sherlock style forensic focus to make sure no aspect of delivering the project on time and on budget is missed. 

“Covid-19 has understandably put increased financial and staff pressures on Crossrail opening the Elizabeth line. However, there are aspects to delivering Crossrail, such as supporting employees’ workloads and better forecasting project delays, that can contribute to delivering as promised. 

“When the lockdowns are over and London starts to return to some form of normality, it is imperative that the Elizabeth line is up and running as soon as possible so that the economic benefits to Londoners and London can be realised. 

“It is important for the Mayor and TfL to share Crossrail’s project timeline, governance plans, and showcase lessons learned. Londoners need assurance that they will be no further out of pocket and the train will be on the track by summer next year.”

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