Crossrail delays caused by desire to cling to ‘unrealistic’ timeframe

Team made choices that damaged public value, says National Audit Office report

Crossrail was driven over its budget and schedule because its management team clung to an unrealistic opening date, according to a National Audit Office report into the delayed transport project.

The NAO said that although problems had emerged as early as 2015, Crossrail did not take opportunities to change approach nor produce a sufficiently detailed delivery plan to track its progress.

Decisions were driven by a desire to meet the December 2018 deadline for the central section of the new west-east rail line underneath London to start carrying passengers.

But that approach led to “choices that clearly damaged public value”, the NAO found. The report said that Crossrail’s “compressed schedule, contractual model, loss of downward pressure on costs, and absence of an achievable plan were set against an atmosphere where ‘can do’ became unrealistic.” Crossrail said last week that the core section might not open until March 2021.

Changes to design and schedules increased costs on most of the project’s 36 main contracts, the report said. The costs of civil engineering works at Whitechapel station alone, as of December 2018, had escalated to £659m – six times the amount originally budgeted, and more than double the estimate in 2015. The overall budget for Crossrail has risen from £14.8bn to to £17.6bn.

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