MPs have expressed concern that Crossrail services could be delayed even beyond the hoped-for 2020 revised opening date, and questioned whether the additional £2.8bn in funding allocated to the scheme will be sufficient.
The railway was due to open in December 2018 but last summer Crossrail Limited, the company set up by Transport for London and the Department for Transport to build it, announced that this date would not be met.
Managers have since said passenger services are unlikely to commence this year but have suggested 2020 as a possible opening date.
However MPs on the Public Accounts Committee say they “are not convinced” even this date will be met and have expressed concern that neither the DfT nor Crossrail have been able “to fully explain how the programme has been allowed to unravel.”
In a report published today, the Committee says “the costs of this project have been allowed to spiral out of control,” and has criticised the DfT and Crossrail’s “unacceptably laissez-faire attitude” to the overrun.
Managers at the DfT have been asked to write to the Committee setting out “how it considered the value for money for the taxpayer” when agreeing the extra cash, how the money should be allocated and how it’s “assured itself that the revised schedule and cost to completion are robust.”
MPs have also called for the Department to set out how it will “properly exercise oversight and hold Crossrail Limited to account for its performance” during the remainder of the works.
The Committee is also asking the DfT to say “what it, Transport for London and Crossrail Limited are responsible and accountable for in relation to Crossrail and what the consequences have been for those senior officials in positions of accountability and responsibility for failures on the programme.”
Committee Chair Meg Hillier MP said: “It is clear that the delivery deadline of December 2018 had been unrealistic for some time. But the Department for Transport, Transport for London and Crossrail Limited continued to put a positive face on the programme long after mounting evidence should have prompted changes.
“Wishful thinking is no basis for spending public money and there remain serious risks to delivering this programme, with a revised schedule and costings for completing the work still to be agreed.
“Some £2.8 billion of extra funding has been provided for Crossrail but even that may not be enough. It is unacceptable that Parliament and the public still do not know the root causes of the failures that beset this project.”
Today’s report has been welcomed by the London Assembly’s Transport Committee which is also investigating the delays and cost overruns, however Assembly Members say MPs should be seeking more answers from Transport for London.
Caroline Pidgeon, Chair of the Transport Committee, said: “Many of the questions the Public Accounts Committee directs to the Department for Transport should also be directed to Transport for London, including its Chair – the Mayor of London.
“There are two equal sponsors of this massive infrastructure project and both need to be fully held to account for the incredible delay and soaring costs.
“All parties have questions to answer and we’ll be raising them when we publish our report later this month.”