MPs’ fury as cost of de­layed Cross­rail soars by £3bil­lion

Daily Mail - - News - By James Salmon Trans­port Editor

‘Ma­jor fail­ings in the pro­gramme’

MPs have hit out at the ‘un­ac­cept­ably lais­sez-faire’ at­ti­tude of min­is­ters and rail bosses to the spi­ralling costs of Lon­don’s de­layed Cross­rail project.

The new El­iz­a­beth Line across the cap­i­tal was orig­i­nally due to open four months ago – but there are now doubts whether it will even be ready next year.

Emer­gency loans from the Gov­ern­ment have seen the cost of the un­der­ground scheme soar by £2.8bil­lion to £17.6bil­lion.

In a scathing Com­mons re­port, the pub­lic ac­counts com­mit­tee said pas­sen­gers have still not been told the root causes for the route be­ing de­layed and over bud­get.

Al­though Cross­rail was also over­seen by Trans­port for Lon­don, MPs said the De­part­ment for Trans­port – headed by Chris Grayling – is ‘ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble for en­sur­ing that the pro­gramme de­liv­ers value for money’.

But it said ‘de­spite ac­knowl­edg­ing that there were ma­jor fail­ings in the pro­gramme’ the De­part­ment and Cross­rail Ltd have been ‘un­will­ing to ac­cept their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for the sig­nif­i­cant de­lays and cost over­runs’. It added: ‘We are dis­ap­pointed at [their] un­ac­cept­ably lais­sez-faire at­ti­tude to costs po­ten­tially ris­ing by nearly £3bil­lion.’

Once fully op­er­a­tional, the line will run from Read­ing and Heathrow in the west, to Shen­field in the east, through 13 miles of new tun­nels.

How­ever MPs warned they were not con­vinced trains will be­gin run­ning next year or that the ‘ad­di­tional £2.8bil­lion of fund­ing pro­vided will be enough’. Cross­rail’s cost is be­ing met by the Gov­ern­ment, the Greater Lon­don Author­ity, in­clud­ing TfL, and Lon­don busi­nesses.

Labour MP Meg Hil­lier, who chairs the PAC, said pas­sen­gers have been ‘badly let down’ and it is clear the planned open­ing date was ‘un­re­al­is­tic for some time’.

In a damn­ing in­dict­ment of the DfT’s wider track record, the com­mit­tee added that it was ‘in­creas­ingly alarmed at the con­tin­ual short­com­ings’ in its over­sight of Bri­tain’s rail­ways.

A DfT spokesman hit back, de­scrib­ing the re­port’s find­ings as ‘deeply dis­ap­point­ing’.

He said that it had ‘con­sis­tently chal­lenged the lead­er­ship of Cross­rail Ltd on the de­liv­ery of this project.’

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