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Crossrail chairman defends project from station upgrade criticism

Crossrail’s chairman has defended the project from criticism that promises were made for station upgrades that will not be delivered.

Giving evidence at the London Assembly Transport Committee, chairman Terry Morgan insisted that Crossrail “never over-promised” in terms of the station upgrades that would be delivered.

London Assembly member for the Essex/East London seat of Havering & Redbridge, Roger Evans said Redbridge Council’s transport committee had been shown presentations of station impressions which had since been scrapped.

Council members criticised the decision to scrap plans to demolish and rebuild Ilford station last year in favour of refurbishment.

Mr Morgan said: “A number of stations are getting upgrades but a number them are looking at urban realm, like Romford and Ilford, where we will either come up with something we can do now or something that doesn’t frustrate the possibility of doing something in time.”

“I have to admit there are some boroughs who are disappointed they are not getting an entirely new station but there is a limited funding envelope.

Mr Morgan said promises had been made before Crossrail started with projects that were delayed but insisted: “We are working with all boroughs trying to work out urban realm issues. Crossrail never over-promised.”

New stations are being built along the central route at Paddington, Tottenham Court Road, Bond Street, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel and Canary Wharf.

Works are planned or being carried out at a total of 37 stations across the route however, with Network Rail responsible for upgrading existing infrastructure and stations on the surface sections of the route.

Meanwhile Crossrail chief executive Andrew Wolstenholme has backed the capacity of contractors to meet its challenging procurement timetable.

Mr Wolstenholme said he had “absolutely no concerns” over the capacity of the market and insisted Crossrail’s procurement of the remaining main stations was going to plan.

Tottenham Court Road, Liverpool Street and (a second) Bond Street main station contracts are all still to be procured with Liverpool Street due in the Spring, followed by Tottenham Court Road in mid-2012 and Bond Street in 2013.

However Mr Wolstenholme said this was due to the need to “spread contracts over the market place in a sensible way” and added that there were no concerns about market capacity to respond as they are going to the market when “everyone will be grateful for more work”.

In a grilling 90-minute evidence session, Mr Morgan and Mr Wolstenholme were quizzed on everything from female representation on Crossrail’s board to governance, sustainability and bonuses.

Here’s what they said:

On governance and former chief executive Rob Holden…(Mr Morgan): “Rob was being pulled into a great deal of time things he didn’t consider core Crossrail work. There is less demand now on government duties and Andrew and I are sharing those.”

On bonuses (Mr Morgan): “The expertise we need to draw upon is in the private sector, we need to recruit from there and retain those people. We have an annual base salary and incentive programme. We have a remuneration committee that sets targets and that will be reviewed in the next two months. We have a long-term incentive plan to ensure we have retention [of staff].”

On one of 12 Crossrail board members being female (Mr Morgan): “Heather Rabbatts is very robust and makes a full contribution to the board. We just want the best people. In our search for the three new non-executive directors we worked very hard to get that balance but it is difficult to get civil servants with the experience we were looking for.”

On supply chain access (Mr Wolstenholme): “I am personally addressing a suppliers conference next month to make sure there is a robust process in place and it is important as procurement progresses that we monitor the success of that. We procured around £2bn of work last year of which 95 per cent was in UK supply chains and as we have another £2bn of work this year - I agree it would be worth tracking where that is going.”

Chairman Terry Morgan added that the key was to make sure that appointments are made on time, and that some contracts had been re-phased to make sure supply sides were balanced and bidding teams were not over stretched.

Mr Wolstenholme added that he had ‘no concerns’ over Network Rail’s ability to meet its requirements under the programme, after it completed three critical pieces of work including signalling capacity work at Slough; track adjustments at Acton and overhead power line work before Christmas on-time.

Crossrail currently employs around 3,000 people, a figure Mr Wolstenholme suggested could double over the next year as it looks to ramp up spending.

As well as the work currently being done in partnership with Job Centre Plus and through its Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (contractors are obliged to employ an apprentice or jobseeker for every £3m of work procured) a bid for an extra £2.5m in EU funding to extend its pre-employment training at the TUCA has also been submitted.

Mr Wolstenholme also insisted that contractor performance in terms of environmental key performance indicators were presented to him monthly and he was satisfied Crossrail “has the evidence it needs” that contractors are meeting challenges.

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