Crossrail boss defends yet another delay pushing service three years behind schedule

8 November 2019, 19:29

By Maddie Goodfellow

Crossrail chief Mark Wild has defended yet another delay to the project and said construction will take longer as they "cannot take shortcuts on safety and reliability".

Earlier today, it was announced that Crossrail, which should have opened in December 2018, will now not be ready until 2021 at the earliest.

Speaking to LBC News, Mr Wild said: "In 2019 we've actually completed the construction of Crossrail, a little bit more to do but not much actually.

"Now we're in the latter stages of hooking up all of these very, vey complex and safety critical systems, and that's taken a little bit longer than we expected

When pushed on the timescale and cost of the project, Mr Wild confirmed: "Well we aim to open it now in 2021 as soon as we possibly can.

"We had planned to open it if we could to open it at the latter part of next year but that's just not going to be possible because we can't walk past and won't take shortcuts around safety and reliability."

The project is now three years late
The project is now three years late. Picture: PA

Mr Wild also confirmed that the new project may cost "between 400 million and 650 million pounds more" than expected.

LBC News confronted Mr Wild on behalf of those people who had made big life decisions based on the Crossrail project, such as buying houses in the commuter zone surrounding he line.

Mr Wild responded: "Well I've been doing this job for one year and I'm so disappointed and frustrated that we didn't open the railway last year. I can't really talk about the reasons why I'm just looking forward.

"I do carry that accountability of homeowners, traders, house builders.

"London desperately needs this railway and we're accountable for providing it. What I do know though is we are in the latter stages."

"This is the biggest thing we've ever done in railways and it's got to be done right. So as frustrating as it is, it will be worth it in the end."

The Elizabeth Line is now expected to be completed in 2021
The Elizabeth Line is now expected to be completed in 2021. Picture: PA

LBC News also asked Mr Wild how he can defend the delay, saying "If normal people made such a mistake going overboard by years and millions of pounds, they'd be out of a job."

He responded: "Well, firstly, it is it was a failure last year, not opening really well documented.

"The phase we're in now, we've actually done very, very well in 2019, with the physical construction.

"I really do ask people to reflect on doing this thoroughly, diligently and we can't walk past safety critical and reliability issues.

"It will be worth it in the end, but I'm very sorry it's taking us a little bit longer than we expected.

Mr Wild also laid out what is left to do in the construction and what is causing the delay.

He explained: "The physical construction is getting completed and will be done actually by the end of February next year, with the exception Bond Street, but even Bond Street, which was a problem problem project for us previously is now off the critical path.

"We're doing two things now in the latter stages, we're integrating the world's most complex signalling system, which has the highest levels of safety and reliability and takes many hours of testing.

"We're hooking up and commissioning 2.5 million assets on Crossrail, the biggest thing ever done in railways in Britain, and one of the biggest projects in the world, all safety critical.

He continued: "So everything's installed, we're now in the process of making sure they all work together on the right level of safety.

"The 200 million people using this system can be assured it will be safe and reliable when we open.

Crossrail is now costing an extra £650 million
Crossrail is now costing an extra £650 million. Picture: PA

Earlier today, Transport for London confirmed that the overrun will cost an extra £650 million, taking the total price of the project to £18 billion.

The latest delay has been caused by the need for more time to develop signalling software and to get key safety approvals for the railway.

Crossrail is Britain's biggest infrastructure project in decades.

TfL said it had agreed along with the Department for Transport that the financing package would stay in place and the two departments were in talks about how to cover the extra costs.

A spokesperson said: “TfL has been advised by Crossrail Ltd that their latest assessment is that the opening of the central section will not occur in 2020, which was the first part of the previously declared opening window.

“The Elizabeth line will open as soon as practically possible in 2021.”