Former National Infrastructure Commission boss Andrew Adonis has criticised the government for moving Sir Terry Morgan to HS2 from Crossrail amid looming delays to the £15.4bn London rail line.
Lord Adonis said transport secretary Chris Grayling’s decision to move Sir Terry from chairing Crossrail to the same role at HS2 was “extraordinary”, particularly at a time when the project was ”clearly failing”.
The former NIC chief’s comments came after Crossrail confirmed that the central section of the Elizabeth line would not open until autumn 2019, at least nine months after its original December 2018 opening date.
When asked by CN who was to blame for the delay, Lord Adonis said: “The secretary of state is in charge of this project ultimately because he is the principal paymaster.
“Mr Grayling appointed Sir Terry, chair of Crossrail, to be chair of HS2 earlier this summer without telling anyone he was walking away from a project that was clearly failing.
“I think Sir Terry should be sent back to Crossrail to sort out the mess.”
Sir Terry took up the HS2 chairman role last month but remains as Crossrail chairman. The DfT said he will split his time equally between Crossrail and HS2. Sir Terry will remain at Crossrail until his term as chairman ends in May 2019.
Crossrail chief executive Andrew Wolstenholme left to join BAE Systems in May.
Lord Adonis, who was transport secretary between 2008 and 2009, said: “It’s extraordinary that at a point where Crossrail was going overbudget and failing to meet [its] opening time that it lost its chair and chief executive.
“And the transport secretary in charge took the chair away from the project and put him in charge of an even bigger one, but one that is less immediately urgent – because it’s not due to open imminently like Crossrail.”
He added: “I’m afraid the buck stops with Mr Grayling here and as we know with previous cases that means the management of the situation is going to be pitiful.”
Transport for London told CN on Friday that the delay was a result of contractors being unable to meet their deadlines for station and tunnel fit-outs.
The announcement came a month after rail minister Jo Johnson revealed that Crossrail’s funding envelope would be increased to £15.4bn, up from the £14.8bn previously set aside.
A DfT spokeswoman said: “We are disappointed by the delay to the opening of the Crossrail central section.
“However, the safety of passengers and staff and reliability of services is the overriding priority and we accept Crossrail Limited’s assessment that more time is needed to fully test the railway before passenger operations can commence.
“We remain confident that Crossrail will deliver a great improvement to passengers’ journeys once it is fully operational.”