The crisis facing Crossrail deepened today after Transport for London (TfL) admitted that the delayed project could need an extra £2bn in rescue funding to stay afloat.
The Elizabeth Line, which will stretch from Heathrow in the west to Abbey Wood in the east, was projected to cost £15.4bn and to open by 9 December this year. In August it was announced that the railway would instead open next autumn – but in a further blow to the project, the new Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild admitted that an autumn 2019 opening date “could no longer be committed to”.
The Greater London Authority (GLA) has agreed to contribute £1.4bn as a grant while a further contingency loan facility of up to £750m was being made available by the Department for Transport. (DfT).
The GLA will borrow up to £1.3bn from the DfT and provide an extra £100m itself.
The GLA said it will repay this loan through business rates.
After the delay was announced in August London mayor Sadiq Khan commissioned a review by KPMG, which today found that the cost impact of the delay “could be in the region of between £1.6bn and £2bn”.
The DfT said the overall funding envelope for the project is now £17.6bn.
The KPMG review was kickstarted amid a debate over what Khan knew and when about the delay.
The mayor has said repeatedly that he was only informed that there would need to be a new opening date for the railway two days before the delay was publicly announced on 31 August.
However, in the run up to his ousting as Crossrail chairman, Sir Terry Morgan said he was in “absolutely no doubt” that he told the mayor on the 26 July that it would no longer be feasible to deliver the Elizabeth Line in 2018.
Today the debate was reignited after TfL released over 100 documents that City Hall claimed were a “serious indictment of Crossrail Ltd’s failed governance”.
It said the documents showed that while the mayor and senior TfL executives were told on 26 July that the official opening date of the project was at “high risk”, in its subsequent weekly report to the mayor on 7 August Crossrail kept its opening date for the Elizabeth Line at 9 December.
Khan said: “When complete, the Elizabeth Line will transform travel across London and the south east, with new state-of-the-art trains taking millions of people more quickly across London. That’s why it’s so crucial we have secured this funding agreement with the government – who are joint sponsors of the project – that will allow Crossrail Ltd to get the railway up and running.
“I remain deeply angry and frustrated at the delays and cost overrun, and these documents are a serious indictment of Crossrail Ltd’s governance. It is clear that as joint sponsors, TfL and the Department for Transport should have been told much more, far sooner by Crossrail.
“I’m pleased that these documents confirm that I have been fully transparent about what I knew when, and am hopeful the funding deal with Government will now allow us to get the Elizabeth Line open as quickly as possible so that Londoners feel all the benefits.”
Caroline Pidgeon, chair of the London Assembly’s transport committee, said the documents made it clear the mayor was told on 26 July that Crossrail’s opening date was at high risk.
She said: “TfL have released a lot of news today but not the information we asked for. We summonsed TfL’s weekly updates to the Mayor and these have been published, apart from a suspicious missing period in July-August.
“It’s very convenient these documents have been released on the same day it’s announced that Crossrail will receive an eye-watering budget boost from the GLA, as well as a new chair. The committee will be scrutinising them thoroughly before its meeting with the mayor on 21 December.”