Crossrail’s management needs to adopt a “determinedly forensic focus” to ensure that Crossrail is delivered to its latest deadline, and within budget, concludes a report by London Assembly’s Transport Committee.
The report looks into the current state of Crossrail looking at what the London Assembly Committee feels needs to be done to get the line open, and within the current budget.
Although a major shake-up of the structure of Crossrail’s governance took place last year, with TfL taking direct control of the project for the first time, the report says that “it is not yet clear whether the new governance structure will promote a more proactive approach to risk management”
The report says that Crossrail needs to resolve staffing issues — although Crossrail themselves highlighted that issue in public meetings. The main issue is that it can be difficult to hire someone with railway engineering experience to work on a Crossrail for around a year when there’s a long term job offer over at HS2.
The delay in sorting out the funding agreement for TfL and Crossrail didn’t help either.
Ideally, Crossrail would have completed before HS2 ramped up, but that didn’t happen, and the report notes that Crossrail may need to pull staff from the rest of TfL to fill some key positions.
They’ve also noted that the Elizabeth Line Delivery Group doesn’t have a representative from Network Rail, who are responsible for delivering the upgrades along the surface rail parts of the line. The delays to the station upgrades notwithstanding, the railway line itself is working under the TfL Rail banner, and the focus at the moment is opening the core tunnels and stations.
The Committee is also worried about staff pressures in the run-up to opening the line, which is likely to be an issue in some areas, but that’s not unique to Crossrail, and would be something that any project would experience in the run-up to a project deadline.
The report is also calling for a “lessons-learned” exercise to be carried out by the end of next month, to see if the new management structure needs changes before it gets stuck-in.
They also warn that “Crossrail’s senior leaders must ensure that the new structure prevents a culture of optimism bias that led to previous project delays.”
The report shows awareness of the problems and the risks facing Crossrail over the next 12-18 months, but doesn’t propose solutions, calling for more reports and investigations.
While it’s the London Assembly’s job to deliver critical oversight of projects such as Crossrail, there’s a risk that some of the reviews it’s asking for, in the final critical year leading to the railway going live are themselves itself a distraction that would simply add to the delays as opposed to finding savings.
The full report is here.