Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Transport for London have been accused of misleading the London Assembly over evidence given on delays to Crossrail.
London Assembly transport committee chair Caroline Pidgeon has claimed that an admission in a letter to her from the mayor contained “discrepancies” with evidence given to the London Assembly.
In his letter, which was in response to Ms Pidgeon’s initial accusations that he had misled the committee over Crossrail’s delay, Mr Khan said he had discussed “schedule pressures” with TfL in March.
In a statement, the committee said: “[In his letter], the mayor suggested that ‘schedule pressures’ had been repeatedly discussed earlier in the year, while TfL and the mayor apparently did nothing about it.
“In which case, the committee concludes that it was deliberately misleading of them to make public statements about the project being on course.”
The committee’s statement is the latest development in a row that began last month, when Ms Pidgeon first accused Mr Khan of knowing Crossrail would likely be delayed long before it was announced, and of therefore misleading the public.
Crossrail revealed on 31 August that the central section of the £15.4bn line would not open until autumn next year, at least nine months after the original December 2018 opening date.
The mayor responded to Ms Pidgeon’s initial accusations in letter on 6 November, denying that he had disclosed only partial information regarding the delay.
In his letter, Mr Khan said: “I do not agree that the information and evidence provided to the assembly has been partial of contradictory, or that the timing of decisions was unclear. Nor did I claim to have been ‘completely uninformed’ [regarding progress on the project].”
He added: “As I explained on 6 September, Crossrail Ltd has been open throughout 2018 that there were significant growing cost and schedule pressures on the project.
“That is very different from any decision to delay the opening of the railway through central London. That decision was taken by the Crossrail Ltd board on 29 August. Until that meeting, Crossrail Ltd’s project status had been that it was on schedule.”
However, the committee responded with the accusations in its latest statement after seizing on a subsequent section of Mr Khan’s letter, in which he cited a TfL board meeting in March at which “schedule pressures” were discussed.
The mayor’s letter stated: “There have been discussions in public at three TfL board meetings – in March, May and July 2018 – confirming that the Crossrail Ltd team was managing schedule and cost pressures as this enormously complex project drew towards completion, but until 29 August, Crossrail Ltd’s position remained that the central section of the railway would open in December 2018.”
Mr Khan’s letter also rejected other aspects of Ms Pidgeon’s original accusations: “You have also alleged that parliament and the London Stock Exchange have been misled through the statements made to them on 24 July. This is not true.
“As I explained on 6 September, when the revised funding agreement was made Crossrail Ltd had not advised the sponsors that the December 2018 opening date could no longer be met.
“As at 24 July, the project sponsors’ independent representative had confirmed there were significant schedule pressures but both the Department for Transport (DfT) and TfL, as joint sponsors, had been informed by Crossrail Ltd that they were managing these risks and were continuing on the basis that the Elizabeth line would open in December 12018 as planned.”
The mayor has commissioned KPMG to lead an urgent review of Crossrail and the causes of the delay.
Commenting on the letter from the mayor, Ms Pidgeon said: “Once again, with this response from the mayor, we are left wanting.
“Simply accepting Crossrail’s assurances about the launch date seems to show incompetence, or at the very least, disinterest.
“The fact that Crossrail is a joint GLA-DfT project is irrelevant – the mayor should have been having discussions with the DfT.
“One cheering note in the mayor’s response is a victory for our probing – we have demanded and received a promise of more transparency.”
Deputy mayor for transport Heidi Alexander dismissed Ms Pidgeon’s claims: “This is nonsense. The mayor has always been clear that he had discussed rising cost and schedule pressures with Crossrail Ltd over the summer, but it was not until the end of August that he was told that the opening of the central section was being pushed back to autumn of next year.
“In every project of this size, there are always risks that are being managed and both the mayor and TfL were relentless in questioning Crossrail Ltd on their assumptions and their actions every step of the way.”