The opening of Crossrail is set to be delayed again as Transport for London admits the new £15 billion rail link will not open in autumn 2019 and could require a further £2 billion funding boost.
It follows a shock announcement earlier this year in August from TfL that the project would be delayed by nine months as ‘more work is required than had been envisaged.’
An independent report by auditors KPMG found problems with the project announced in August are likely to cost up to £2 billion.
But today Crossrail Ltd chief executive Mark Wild has admitted there is still a ‘huge amount still to do’ on the new east-west railway and has ditched the autumn 2019 opening date.
Warning signs stand on newly laid railway track in a tunnel of the Crossrail project in Stepney, east London. The opening of the project may be delayed again beyond the revised schedule of autumn next year
An independent report by auditor KPMG found the impact of the delay announced in the summer ‘could be in the region of between £1.6 billion and £2 billion’.
A new financial package has been agreed for the Greater London Authority borrow up to £1.3 billion from the Department for Transport (DfT).
There is also a ‘contingency agreement’ involving a loan from the DfT of up to £750 million should the final cost reach the upper estimate.
Giving an update on the Crossrail project, Transport for London said in a statement: ‘Crossrail Ltd announced in August that it expected the Elizabeth line to open through central London in autumn 2019, rather than December 2018.
‘It has now become clear that more work is required than had been envisaged to complete the infrastructure and then commence the extensive testing necessary to ensure the railway opens safely and reliably.
‘Today the new chief executive of Crossrail, Mark Wild, also confirmed that having reviewed the work still required to complete the project, an autumn 2019 opening date could no longer be committed to at this stage, and his team was working on a robust and deliverable schedule.’
People walk through the Crossrail Place Bridge in the Canary Wharf financial district of London
The statement added: ‘The emerging findings of the KPMG review into Crossrail Ltd’s finances indicate the likely capital cost impact of the delay to the project announced in August could be in the region of between £1.6 billion and £2 billion.’
The Mayor of London and the government had agreed a financial package to cover the shortfall, TfL said.
In April 2012 the Mayor introduced a community infrastructure planning (CIL) levy on new developments in London to finance Crossrail, which imposes a surcharge on larger businesses based on floor space.
A map showing the new route of the Crossrail project, which has now been delayed again, with no new opening date currently announced
The Crossrail Business Rate Supplement (BRS) has been used to finance £4.1 billion of the costs of the project. Of this, around £3.3 billion has been borrowed with the remaining £0.8 billion being funded directly using BRS revenues. It will need to be levied until the GLA’s borrowing
The London Evening Standard reports more than £500m has been raised since the levy was imposed. The DfT first announced an extra £590m for Crossrail in July, followed by a £350m loan to the Greater London Authority in October. Today’s loan, reportedy as much as £1.3bn, is also to the GLA.
A map of the new Elizabeth line which will take commuters from Reading and Heathrow Airport in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east
The announcement comes shortly after the resignation Sir Terry Morgan, chairman of HS2 ltd and Crossrail Ltd, last week.
Asked why he thought he was being forced out, Sir Terry told BBC Radio 4’s PM last week: ‘I can only but assume, because I’ve not yet been told, that because HS2 is such a critically important programme and with the sense of disappointment around the performance of Crossrail, that it was considered to be too risky for a programme like HS2 to continue in my role as chairman.’
The £15 billion new Tube line will eventually run from London’s western suburbs into deepest Essex, linking Maidenhead and Heathrow Airport, with Paddington, Canary Wharf with Shenfield and Abbey Wood.
When Sadiq Khan took office, the project was on time and budget.
Its central section, which runs through the West End, was scheduled to be opened by the Queen this month.
Only last week Sir Terry Morgan (pictured), chairman of HS2 ltd and Crossrail Ltd, resigned and in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s PM said there was a ‘sense of disappointment’ around the performance of Crossrail
But now it seems unlikely to open until late next year, costing TfL an estimated £600 million in lost revenue.
It’s also running rapidly over budget, having required loans of almost £1 billion to stay afloat in recent months, and is expected to need ‘hundreds of millions’ more in the New Year, according to a Financial Times expose.
The delay is the subject of an investigation by auditor KPMG, appointed by Khan despite having worked extensively on the project, leading a former Tory Minister, Greg Hands, to claim it was hired to deliver a ‘whitewash’.
In a second political row, Khan was accused of misleading voters and (crucially) the financial markets over its state of Crossrail.
Mayor Sadiq Khan has bee accused of misleading voters and financial markets after the delays to the Crossrail project
At the centre of this kerfuffle is the fact that neither the public, nor bond-holders who own Crossrail’s debt, were informed that the opening deadline would be missed until August 31, when it was announced that another year was needed for ‘safety testing’.
A week later, amid growing criticism of his stewardship, Khan informed the London Assembly he’d been blindsided about the problems by Crossrail managers, claiming he’d found out about this delay only some two days earlier.
He was, he claimed, ‘frustrated, disappointed and angry’.
Shaun Bailey AM, the Conservative Party candidate for London Mayor, said: ‘Sadiq Khan is using the latest Crossrail bailout as a smokescreen to distract from the fact he’s not been straight with Londoners about what he knew about Crossrail’s delays and when he knew it.
‘The Mayor has a duty to be honest with Londoners, because it’s Londoners who are footing his bill.
‘The Transport Committee will try to nail Khan’s shifting story to the wall when he appears December 21.’
Crossrail in numbers: How journey times will be slashed across London and economy will be boosted by £42billion
The new railway will become known as the Elizabeth line when it opens in autumn 2019.
Not only will it significantly slash journey times across the capital, it is expected to boost house prices, and welcome 200million passengers each year.
- At its peak, a massive 10,000-strong workforce was responsible for completing the project, which included more than 700 apprentices.
- The Crossrail project is building 10 brand new stations at locations including Abbey Wood, Bond Street, Canary Wharf, Customs House, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Paddington, Tottenham Court Road, Whitechapel and Woolwich.
- Over three million tonnes of excavated material from the tunnels was shipped to Wallasea Island in Essex to create a new 1,500 acre RSPB nature reserve.
- The construction of the new railway is expected to add an estimated £42bn to the UK economy.
- Residential capital values are projected to increase immediately around Crossrail stations in central London by 25 per cent, and by 20 per cent in suburbs.
- House prices in Reading, on the western tip of the Elizabeth line, are expected to grow by a whopping 50 per cent.
- In March 2013, workers digging the tunnels for Crossrail uncovered 13 skeletons under a road near Charterhouse Square, Farringdon. The bodies were believed to be 14th Century plague victims.
- Elsewhere 3,500 skeletons were excavated at the Crossrail project Liverpool Street site from the Bedlam burial ground by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) between February and August 2015.
- Up to 100 archaeologists have also worked on the project, uncovering thousands of items and artefacts spanning 55million years of London’s history.