The Department for Transport has announced that the head of the Infrastructure and Projects Agency, Tony Meggs, will be the next chair of the Crossrail rail project as the scale of problems at the delayed new line become clear.
DfT and Transport for London yesterday announced that core elements of the project, including the stations and the fit out of the tunnels, were “at varying stages of completion”, despite the line having being scheduled to open in October.
As a result, more funding is needed to complete the line, with an estimated additional cost of between £1.6bn and £2bn, taking the overall funding envelope for the project to £17.6bn.
DfT has agreed to provide a loan of up to £1.3bn to the Greater London Authority, while the GLA will provide a £100m cash contribution. A contingency arrangement has also been put in place, with an option for DfT to loan TfL up to a further £750m in the event more money is required.
Announcing the package, DfT and TfL confirmed Meggs had been nominated to take over as Crossrail chair from Sir Terry Morgan, who resigned on 5 December after predicting his imminent sacking as ministers lost confidence in his leadership amid the cost hikes.
Meggs will step down from his role as chief executive of the IPA, which he has led since it was formed in January 2016 in a merger between the Major Projects Authority and Infrastructure UK. Meggs had led the MPA from October 2014, following a number of senior roles in the oil industry during a 30-year career, culminating in the role of head of technology at BP.
The central London section of Crossrail was supposed to open this month but was postponed earlier this year to autumn 2019.
Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild, who was appointed last month, is conducting an extensive review of the remainder of the programme and will provide clarity in the New Year on the opening date of future phases, transport minister Andrew Jones said. “Crossrail Ltd are working to establish a robust and deliverable schedule to open a safe and reliable railway. This will also provide greater clarity on the level of additional funding required.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan said the line would “truly transform travel across the capital”, but added that he hadn't hidden his “anger and frustration” about the delays.
It was “increasingly clear that the previous Crossrail Ltd leadership painted a far too optimistic picture of the project's status”, Khan said. He said he would release the minutes of all the Crossrail board meetings from the last five years to provide transparency, as well as backing a National Audit Office into the project.
TfL commissioner Mike Brown added that “only now is the scale of what is yet to be completed becoming clear”.
"The confirmation of this funding agreement will now allow Crossrail Ltd and its new leadership to focus on finishing the remaining construction work on the stations and tunnels and then completing the vital safety testing in order to open the railway for passengers as quickly as possible," he said.
In a statement, Meggs said: it was “a privilege to join the Crossrail team”.
He added: “My number one priority will be to work with the board and executive team to ensure this project is completed as soon and as safely as possible.
“The UK is renowned for its outstanding engineering and expertise in major projects and I'm confident that we will deliver a world class project that will benefit the country for generations to come.”
“We are in a lot better shape as a profession”
In an interview with CSW in September, Meggs set out the progress he had made in boosting project delivery since joining government.
“I think it would be fair to say that the profession itself is much more professional, we have a lot more highly trained people running and working on projects across government,” he said. “We obviously have the Government Major Projects Portfolio and transparency of information, and we have built a system that goes from the Green Book initiation of projects through the whole delivery pathway. We are in a lot better shape as a profession that both understands projects and how to do them, and has the skills to do them. I think everyone in government would attest to that.
“The second thing is that the importance of projects is well understood in a way it probably wasn’t before – the necessity to implement policy through good projects and programmes is well understood, and the prominence of the role of project delivery is in better shape.”
However, he also acknowledged that “everything in the garden is not rosy”, noting that there are “more reds and amber-reds than we would like to have” in the GMPP’s annual report’s traffic light system of project health.
He highlighted four main areas – project initiation, performance management, portfolio size, and getting the right skills in the right places – where the IPA was looking to make progress ahead of the 2019 Spending Review.
“To be really blunt about this, this is about promising too much at the outset, particularly on big transformation projects, which are very often extremely ambitious and where the initial timescale is set without proper project timing and review,” he said.
“I could give you plenty of examples of this – big projects where either at a Spending Review or after an election – early promises are made that are not based on realistic assumptions about how long things actually take. As we move into this Spending Review, we are using a lot of data about actual performance versus anticipated performance to inform decisions that are made.”
An IPA spokesperson said: "The Department for Transport and TfL have recommended to the Crossrail Ltd board that they appoint Tony Meggs as chair. Tony Meggs is stepping down as chief executive of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority and Head of government’s project delivery function. IPA's current deputy chief executive, Matthew Vickerstaff, will act as interim chief executive effective 1 January 2019, while a permanent appointment is made through open competition.”