Former Crossrail chairman Sir Terry Morgan used his appearance at the London Assembly to level a host of accusations at Transport for London and the mayor of London about how they handled information concerning delays to the project.
Sir Terry told a session at the London Assembly that Transport for London’s communications team spent “much of August” coming up with a strategy on how to present a delay it knew about in late July.
He alleged the team avoided using email, meaning the conversations would be hard to trace.
He claimed some weekly updates to mayor of London Sadiq Khan, which have since been publicly released, reflected what had been edited by TfL rather than what was produced by Crossrail. This, Sir Terry alleges, gave the impression he was more optimistic than it appeared.
The ex-chairman claims that before its 25 July board meeting, the day before he said he told the mayor about the delay, he was given a piece of paper by someone working for TfL giving him a line to take at the meeting.
In front of the same assembly transport committee last month, TfL commissioner Mike Brown and Mr Khan said they had not told Sir Terry what to say about the delays.
During his evidence, Sir Terry also repeatedly pointed to a slide given to TfL at a 26 July meeting involving the mayor, which said a 2018 delivery was “not feasible”.
“I don’t know what other interpretation in English terms you can give to the fact that we said delivery of Crossrail in 2018 was not feasible,” he said.
Questioned by a member on whether he had given verbal assurances which contradicted the slide, as Mr Khan had insisted, Sir Terry said: “Do you really think when a piece of paper says delivery in 2018 is not feasible that it is what it is?”
However, Sir Terry’s claims were subsequently contradicted by deputy mayor Heidi Alexander who suggested the ex-chair had assured the meeting no final decision had been made on a 2018 opening.
She alleged that claims he ruled out a December opening date at the meeting were “simply not true. That did not happen”.
Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild told the committee that even the July assessment was too optimistic and “thousands of hours of construction work” is still required in the tunnel.
“I don’t think any of us really understood or were being communicated to about these delays,” he said, adding that one slide does not provide the full context on what was known.
TfL’s director of strategy and network development David Hughes claimed the briefings Sir Terry alleged had been changed were informal updates which went through the operator as standard and that there had been no complaints about editing having taken place.
A spokeman for Mr Khan said: “As the Mayor has reiterated, in July Crossrail Ltd had informed the sponsors that the opening date was at high risk, but not informed them that the opening of the central section would definitely be delayed.
“Mention of ‘not feasible’ refers to separate options for a partial or sectional opening being judged ‘not feasible’, if a full opening were to be ruled out.”
A TfL spokeswoman said Sir Terry was legally obliged to issue a notice when a delay to the project was confirmed, and he did not do this until 29 August.
She added: “It is completely untrue that TfL chose to draft a script for Sir Terry Morgan to use at the 25 July TfL Board meeting.
“At a pre-meeting […] Sir Terry went through what he intended to say and subsequently asked if someone would write this up as an aide memoire for him to use.”