Transport for London has denied claims that the former head of Crossrail was ordered not to reveal the risk of the project falling behind schedule to the TfL board.
London Assembly Members are investigating a major delay in the project which was due to open last December but now looks likely to be delayed until some time next year.
The delay has already cost hundreds of millions of pounds in overruns, with City Hall having to borrow money from the Government in order to allow work to proceed.
Central to AMs’ investigation is the matter of when Mayor Sadiq Khan and TfL first became aware the opening date could not be met.
Mr Khan has repeatedly insisted he was only told on August 29th 2018, two days before the delay was publicly announced.
However Sir Terry Morgan, the former Chair of Crossrail Limited – a wholly owned subsidiary of TfL responsible for delivering the project – claims he told Mr Khan on July 26th.
Appearing before the Assembly’s Transport Committee on Wednesday, Sir Terry repeated this assertion and dismissed previous suggestions by the Mayor that he had ‘misremembered’ some details, saying he does not suffer from memory loss.
He also claimed that TfL had been developing a strategy to announce the delay throughout August, adding that managers had ‘gone offline’ and avoided using email to discuss the plan in order that they were protected from any Freedom of Information requests.
Sir Terry also used his appearance to allege that an unnamed TfL figure gave him “a sheet…about what to say” at the July 25th meeting of the TfL board, adding that the paper “took out any reference to not being able to deliver the programme in 2018.”
He also claimed that a weekly briefing report submitted in June was edited by TfL before it reached the Mayor in order to remove any mention of a potential delay.
TfL has denied the claims, with a spokesperson saying: “It is completely untrue that TfL chose to draft a script for Sir Terry Morgan to use at the 25 July TfL Board meeting.
“At a pre-meeting for the TfL Board held on 24 July, Sir Terry went through what he intended to say and subsequently asked if someone would write this up as an aide memoire for him to use.
“This short summary purely reflected our understanding of what Sir Terry himself wanted to say. Nothing in this material ‘omitted’ anything about the opening date of Crossrail.”
The spokesperson also insisted that the weekly briefings “were TfL’s reports and not those of Crossrail,” and “provided a snapshot of the status of the project.” They concluded: “All final versions of the report were provided to Crossrail Limited.”
Speaking after today’s meeting, Committee chair Caroline Pidgeon AM said: “Despite the many revelations from Sir Terry Morgan today, there are still contradicting accounts of who knew what and when.
“It continues to be a very frustrating process getting to the bottom of the confusion, but Londoners have a right to know.
“Not only do we need to see Crossrail back on track and open for passengers, we also need to ensure lessons are learnt for the future.”