Crossrail bosses and Sadiq Khan were among those to be grilled by London Assembly members today as it was confirmed that an explosion during the powering up of a new sub-station last November at Pudding Mill Lane forced plans to be pushed back by months and ultimately led to the delay of London’s new railway.
It was revealed in the meeting that “dynamic testing” of trains was meant to start last October but this had to be halted until as late as February due to the explosion. This meant fitting out tunnel and testing software systems that control signalling, lighting and other essential services was late which in turn left an inadequate amount of time for paramount safety checks.
While concerns and significant challenges were known throughout the process, Crossrail’s chief executive Simon Wright told assembly members that teams exhausted every possible option to find a solution before making the difficult decision of confirming a delay. Wright said he realised in July it was “looking very difficult” for a December opening.
Crossrail’s chairman also defended himself and the organisation for the last-minute announcement. He rejected suggestions by members he had been dishonest and said he reported concerns along the way.
“We found ourselves in a situation where when we mitigated one risk another appeared,” he added. “A combination of delays on construction and the complexity of testing the new systems and a lack of productivity of testing led us to the decision…We couldn't guarantee a safe and reliable railway in December.”
Transport for London commissioner Mike Brown was hurled before London Assembly members too. He said the transport body could expect to lose out from £20m of revenue in the four months of the financial year in 2018-19 but discussions would be ongoing into understanding the full costs involved.
Brown also revealed he would be meeting the Treasury and the Department for Transport later in the day to figure out what impacts the delay will have and “how we come to an arrangement on those costs" with the project already running almost £600m over budget.
The mayor of London was another grilled at City Hall and he confirmed he only knew there was definitely a delay to the opening just two days before it was announced publicly.
Khan said: “I’m extremely frustrated, disappointed and angry at the delay but I’m confident that when completed Crossrail will be a great engineering project and asset for London.”