The mayor of London told outgoing Crossrail chair Sir Terry Morgan that he had “lost confidence in him” in September but was unable to force his resignation.
Construction News understands that deputy mayor for transport Heidi Alexander and Transport for London commissioner Mike Brown met with Sir Terry in September, telling him the mayor had “lost confidence in him because the information he was giving the mayor was inaccurate”, the mayor’s spokesperson said.
However, the mayor was unable to remove Sir Terry, who is due to step down from his Crossrail role in March, as any such move would have had to be a “joint decision” with the Department for Transport, which appointed Sir Terry as the new chair of HS2 in August.
The revelations come as Sir Terry used an interview on the BBC’s Today programme to say he expected the cost of Crossrail to increase further, and to allege that TfL knew of problems on the project up to eight months ago.
Sir Terry hit the headlines over the weekend over speculation that he will be asked to resign from his roles as both chair of Crossrail and HS2.
The mayoral spokesperson said: “The mayor considers it a damning indictment of Crossrail governance that the mayor and TfL had to commission an independent report to tell them the true scale of the delays to the project.
“This is the kind of crucial information that really should have come from the chairman, but didn’t.
“The mayor has been clear that he discussed rising cost and schedule pressures with Crossrail over the summer, including looking at the implications if these issues weren’t resolved.
“At the meeting at the end of July it was clear that the opening date was at high risk of being missed, but it was not until the end of August that the mayor, TfL and the DfT were told that the opening of the central section would definitely be delayed until autumn 2019 – something the mayor has not hidden his anger and disappointment about.
“The mayor has been open with government about his concerns in relation to Crossrail governance for months.
“The deputy mayor for Transport and TfL commissioner spoke directly to Terry Morgan about his position in September. The leadership of Crossrail is a joint decision with government – as it’s a joint project. But if it had been down to the mayor, the matter would have been resolved long before now.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Sir Terry said he expected a fresh cost increase on Crossrail to be announced in “the coming weeks”.
Asked if he thought Crossrail would need more funding, Sir Terry said: “I think it does. The testing around systems integration is still ongoing, there isn’t a train running as it should in the critical sections in the tunnels.
“I am expecting another announcement of additional funding, I don’t know how much.”
Sir Terry also called into question the mayor of London’s statement that he was unaware of delays or cost issues at the project, saying he personally informed Mr Khan on 26 July.
He added: “Although Crossrail is responsible for building the assets and they are running a little late, I am not responsible for the trains themselves.
“I didn’t know until quite recently that Transport for London, which runs the contract for trains, were advised eight months ago that the trains were 18 months late.
“The mayor is responsible for the trains. I formally advised the mayor in a meeting on 26 July that we had come to the conclusion that completing the work in 2018 was no longer possible or feasible.
“What I did say at the time is that, while I had a schedule of things we needed to do, we hadn’t at that time been able to understand cost consequences, which were important, and the team needed more time to finish that work, and that was what was done in August.”
The cost to TfL of Crossrail being delayed until autumn 2019 has been estimated at up to £600m in lost revenues by the end of 2021.
Pressed on when the mayor knew of the delay, Sir Terry said: “Absolutely no doubt that the mayor was told on 26 July that it was no longer feasible to deliver Crossrail in 2018.
“As I said, I did not have details about the cost problem [at the time of the July meeting].”
The chair of the London Assembly’s transport committee Caroline Pidgeon suggested the revelations were reducing confidence in Mr Khan.
She said: “This ongoing situation is rapidly causing a loss in trust in the mayor. If the assembly was misled – that is a very serious breach of trust.
“It is quite incredible that we are yet to receive the Crossrail briefing papers. The longer the delay in delivering them the stronger the feeling of a cover-up.
“The mayor, as chairman of TfL, and Crossrail both promised more transparency going forward. Yet we have seen anything but transparency.
“For the sake of public trust, the mayor must live up to his promise of transparency and show there is no Machiavellian behaviour going on behind closed doors.”
A spokesperson for TfL said: “Crossrail Ltd is responsible for the completion of the new railway, including integrating signalling and railway systems. The trains are already successfully serving parts of the Elizabeth line route in the east and the west.
“Their procurement has had no bearing on the fact that the completion of the line, including tunnel fit-out, the new stations and a range of safety critical railway systems was not completed in time by Crossrail Ltd for a December opening.”
The Department for Transport has been contacted for comment.