Crossrail's chairman says the 16bn project is set to push ahead in 2010

The last time I saw Terry Morgan was a year ago at 2am, underneath Leicester Square. Then he was the Tube Lines chief executive and was standing on the underground tracks between Leicester Square and Covent Garden stations, telling a couple of engineers exactly what he thought of their work.<br /><br />This meeting could not be more different. It is 2pm and Morgan, a short, youthful-looking 60-year old, bounds across his modern corner office on the 28th floor of 25 Canada Square at Canary Wharf to shake hands.<br /><br />In June, Morgan swapped seven years at one of the largest and most complex Public Private Partnerships in the world, the 30-year &pound;25bn upgrade of London Underground, to become chairman of the &pound;16bn Crossrail link, the biggest infrastructure project in Europe. <br /><br />Morgan came up smelling of roses after his last job. Tube Lines was generally regarded to have worked well improving the Northern, Jubilee and Piccadilly lines, on time and on budget. Its rival private sector consortium Metronet overspent, went bust, and had to been taken over by Transport for London in July 2007. <br /><br />Morgan, a relaxed figure, has this to say about his new post: &ldquo;This is very much the job I wanted. All eyes are on us. They do not come much bigger than this.&rdquo;<br /><br />It is hard to disagree with Morgan, who has not lost his Welsh lilt during the course of a 29-year engineering career that has taken him all over the world. Most of the statistics connected with the east-west rail link &ndash; it will connect Maidenhead in Kent with Abbey Wood and Shenfield in Essex via Heathrow, central London and Canary Wharf &ndash; are eyewatering.<br /><br />The 73-mile rail line will carry 24 trains an hour during rush hour in 10 carriages running 200 metres long, twice the size of an underground train. The project is designed to bring an extra 1.5m people within a 60 minute commuting distance of central London, and will boost the capital&rsquo;s rail capacity by 10 per cent. <br />Passengers will be able to travel from the Docklands to Heathrow in 44 minutes.<br /><br />The project, which spent decades on the drawing board, finally began foundation work this year at Canary Wharf and Tottenham Court Road &ndash; a key interchange. But the main work is not due to begin until the middle of next year. At its peak, the project will employ 14,000 people &ndash; more than twice that indirectly. <br /><br />Morgan says the &ldquo;business end&rdquo; of the project &ndash; the tunnelling of two 20 feet high 12.5 mile tunnels from Canary Wharf in the east to Paddington in the west &ndash;&ensp;is set to start in 2011. The tunnelling machines will drill towards each other and several years (and several billions pounds) later they will meet at Farringdon. <br /><br />The first trains are due to run on the new route in 2017. The Department for Transport is providing &pound;5.6bn of funding for the project and Transport for London is paying for another &pound;7.7bn.<br /><br />Airport operator BAA is funding the project to the tune of &pound;230m and the Corporation of London and the capital&rsquo;s businesses are providing a further &pound;350m. The Canary Wharf Group, who own the Docklands development, will contribute &pound;150m. The rest will come from Crossrail farepayer, who will help pay down the debts of the project. <br /><br />However, critics of the development say the City has managed to pull the wool over the government&rsquo;s eyes by getting it to fund Crossrail instead of much-needed Tube extensions into northeast and southwest London to areas like Hackney, Chelsea and Greenwich.<br /><br />But Morgan argues that Crossrail will ease Tube congestion. He says: &ldquo;We have started work at Tottenham Court Road, that will help with congestion. This will be the same with many other interchanges along the route, such as Paddington, Liverpool Street and Whitechapel. Crossrail will help ease overcrowding on the Tube. We need both. We can&rsquo;t do one without the other.&rdquo;<br /><br />Perhaps more importantly, the project also seems to be winning friends among the Conservatives. A year ago the party said it would automatically place the scheme on a list of high spending projects to be reviewed if the Tories win power in the general election, which is expected next spring.<br /><br />But just last week Conservative leader David Cameron said he backed Crossrail as long as it remained value for money.<br /><br />Morgan welcomed Cameron&rsquo;s comments, saying: &ldquo;We can&rsquo;t ask for any more at this stage.&rdquo; <br /><br />Conservative Mayor of London Boris Johnson is certainly in Crossrail&rsquo;s camp. Along with transport secretary Lord Adonis he attended the Canary Wharf foundation-laying in May and said: &ldquo;The years of hesitation, irresolution and vacillations are over. The shovels have tasted earth and the construction of a railway that is crucial to the economic prosperity of this great city has begun.&rdquo;<br /><br />Morgan adds he regularly talks to the Tories&rsquo; shadow transport team and describes them as &ldquo;well briefed and supportive of Crossrail&rdquo;. <br /><br />However, the Tories&rsquo; conversion to the programme may simply be a matter of timing. If the Conservatives get into power next May, Crossrail&rsquo;s spending will already be significant.<br /><br />For instance the project is already three-quarters of the way through its &pound;800m compulsory purchase order programme, the most famous victim of which is the Astoria Theatre on Charing Cross Road. And it employs 3,000 people, with 300 spread across four floors at its Canary Wharf headquarters.<br /><br />Morgan says: &ldquo;By mid-2010, we will have &pound;2bn committed to the project. That is what will be put at risk if the project does not go forward. This is no longer now a project that is waiting to start. It has begun.&rdquo;<br /><br />Morgan says that apart from chairing board meetings and acting as an &ldquo;advocate&rdquo; for the project, his role is also to act as &ldquo;coach&rdquo; to new chief executive Rob Holden, who joined in April.<br /><br />Holden was chief executive of London and Continental Railways, which built the &pound;5.8bn Channel Tunnel Rail Link, now called High Speed One. Holden took over the project after it was rescued by the government in 1998, and brought it in on time and within the new budget. The development is well regarded, particularly the refurbishment of St Pancras station, which is looked on as one of the best Mainline terminuses in Europe.<br /><br />Morgan, who helped recruit Holden and sits in the next door office, says: &ldquo;There are not that many people around with his kind of experience on this scale of project. He knows what it takes to deliver these types of programmes.&rdquo;<br /><br />This year Holden brought in Andy Mitchell and David Bennett as programme director and implementation director respectively, and Martin Buck has joined Crossrail as commercial director to help push the project forward.<br /><br />Morgan adds: &ldquo;I have seen his determination to get the right people in this year to begin the delivery phase of the programme. And I have seen how determined he is to make sure the delivery plans are robust enough in terms of meeting deadlines on time and at cost.&rdquo;<br /><br />Some analysts claim that part of the reason the UK is taking longer to pull out of recession than France and Germany is because our economy is too concentrated around financial services and should pay greater attention to engineering and manufacturing.<br /><br />Morgan agrees: &ldquo;We certainly shouldn&rsquo;t do fewer major infrastructure projects. The country is working on the Olympics, which ends in 2012. And Crossrail will finish in 2017. We should keep up the momentum. These projects need to be done. London needs big projects to remain competitive with the rest of the world.&rdquo;<br /><br />At a juncture in his career when most other people are thinking about winding down, Morgan is on his second major infrastructure project in a row &ndash; &shy;and he seems as enthusiastic as an apprentice. The project looks set to pass the point of no return next year; Morgan and his team are certainly settling in for the long haul.<br /><br /><strong>CV </strong> TERRY MORGAN<br /><br />Age: 60<br /><br />Work: 1980-1985 Leyland Bus company; 1985-1991 production director, Land Rover; 1991-1995 managing director, Land Rover; 1995-1997 managing director, Royal Ordnance (part of BAE Systems); 1997-2000 group human resources director, BAE Systems; 2000-2002 group managing director of operations, BAE Systems; 2002-2009 chief executive, Tube Lines; 2009-present chairman, Crossrail<br /><br />Education: MSc at Birmingham University <br /><br />Family: Married, two children. Lives in Solihull; a flat in London, Vauxhall<br /><br />Hobbies: Golf, plays off an 18 handicap, and fan of Welsh national rugby side