Members of the London Assembly have accused Sadiq Khan of misleading the public over what he knew about a nine-month Crossrail delay that infuriated commuters when it was revealed this summer.
The Assembly's transport committee, which has been investigating the delay, has sent a damning letter to London mayor Khan. The letter, seen by City A.M., says the accounts it has heard surrounding the nine-month delay to the £15.4bn project have been "partial and contradictory".
On 31 August Crossrail announced that the Elizabeth Line, which will connect Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east through tunnels in central London, would be delayed until Autumn 2019 owing to delays in signalling testing.
Khan has said repeatedly that neither he nor TfL knew of the need for a new opening date until a meeting with the Crossrail board on 29 August. "I am extremely disappointed, frustrated and angry by the delay," he said at the start of September.
However, the committee points to a number of meetings held between Crossrail and the Department for Transport (DfT) and TfL from 19 July in which they argue the delay would have been made clear.
“We accept the assurances you have personally given to the Assembly that you did not know the specific details of the delay until two days before the announcement.
“However, given the evidence we have received we feel it is highly likely that you were informed on or soon after 19 July that there was very likely to be a delay. It may have been justified to wait for clearer information before a public announcement. However, it is arguable that maintaining that you were completely misinformed is misleading.
“If in fact you were uninformed, we can only assume this was to allow you – and ministers – a degree of ‘plausible deniability’ about the inevitable delay in the launch date. This is completely inappropriate and damages the reputations of all involved.”
A spokesperson for the mayor said: "The mayor did not hide his anger and disappointment when Crossrail Ltd announced that the central section of the project wouldn’t be opening until Autumn next year – anger and frustration made worse by the length of the delay and how late in the project it was announced.
"The mayor has expressed his frustrations directly to the leadership of Crossrail – both privately and during meetings in public.
"The mayor has now asked Crossrail Ltd and TfL to look into whether the joint sponsors should have been made aware of the revised schedule at an earlier date, and whether the right scrutiny and oversight is in place as the project moves to its final phase.
"As part of this, the mayor has asked the TfL Commissioner to arrange for an independent review of Crossrail’s governance, to report next month."
A spokesperson for Crossrail said: “Crossrail has been reporting cost and schedule pressures to sponsors. At the Crossrail board on 19 July a schedule risk was flagged and the executive were tasked to report back and present a formal recommendation to a special meeting of the board in August. At the Crossrail board meeting on 29 August it was confirmed that it was now no longer possible to meet the December 2018 opening date. This was communicated to sponsors on 30 August and announced at the earliest opportunity on 31 August.”
Meanwhile, Sky News last night reported that Crossrail chief Terry Morgan is likely to step down from his role by the end of the year. He previously told the Assembly that he has not faced pressure to resign over the Elizabeth Line delay.
The DfT and TfL declined to comment.