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Crossrail sponsorship review seeks to learn wider lessons

11 April 2024


Continually reviewing a major project’s delivery model is highlighted as a key message from experience with the £19bn Crossrail project in a new report published jointly by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) into the lessons from the sponsorship and governance of Crossrail, now operating as the Elizabeth Line.

The report Sponsoring a Major Project The Crossrail Experience examines the joint sponsorship model, which was established between TfL and the DfT to deliver Crossrail.

This established an arm’s length body, Crossrail Ltd, to build the project. “As is to be expected, there were benefits to this model, but there were challenges too” say Dame Bernadette Kelly, DfT Permanent Secretary, and Andy Byford London’s Transport Commissioner in a joint foreword.

The Elizabeth line can be described as genuinely transformational says the report, having added around 10percnt to London’s public transport capacity and around 700,000 journeys are now regularly made on midweek services, far-exceeding post-pandemic expectations, and attributed to the new connections and savings in journey times that it has delivered, coupled with its accessibility and ultra-modern trains.

The report highlights nine key lessons relevant to project sponsorship in this case and for wider recognition, across areas such as capacity and capability, assurance, roles and responsibilities, and governance.

These lessons are underpinned by over 90 interviews with key project stakeholders, multiple workshops, and hours of reading says the IPA, whose work was led by report author Matthew Symes, with expertise and peer review from the Association for Project Managers (APM) and the Major Projects Association (MPA).

The report was created as a follow-up to the 2019 IPA and DfT publication ‘Lessons from transport for the sponsorship of major projects’, and it tests whether the 24 lessons highlighted in that original piece of work remain relevant and impactful.

“The report raises two key challenges for government,” believes Nick Smallwood IPA Chief Executive. “The first is to continue to professionalise project delivery, and the second is to evolve our methods of project assurance in order to cut through group think.” The IPA has made large strides in raising the capability and profile of the project delivery profession within government, Smallwood says.

The report focuses particularly on the interaction of the joint sponsors with Crossrail Limited as the delivery body for the project. Many projects in government use this type of model where a government department acts as the project sponsor - responsible for setting requirements, owning the business case, and ensuring that the expected benefits are delivered – but where the hands-on delivery is managed by a separate entity.

This report is expected to be particularly relevant to those in the public sector and government working to deliver projects through that model.

An LTT/TfL event reviewing the planning, delivery and impacts of The Elizabeth Line is taking place on 8 May at the London Transport Museum See https://www.landorlinks.uk/elizabeth-line for details.

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