The former chair of Crossrail provided a robust and feisty defence on warnings given to Transport for London (TfL) and the mayor of London, while accusing London’s transport body of attempting to hide the truth.
Sir Terry Morgan in a London Assembly hearing today (9 January) told members that TfL staff handed him notes on what to say before important board meetings and even erased a paragraph within one weekly briefing on testing issues that was intended for Sadiq Khan.
His appearance comes on the back of an appearance made by Sadiq Khan just a few days before Christmas when he told assembly members there was no “smoking gun” over the project and denied he was told of a delay at a pivotal meeting on 26 July.
But giving evidence on the Crossrail delay, Morgan reiterated that he told the mayor of London on 26 July that it was simply not feasible to finish the project for December 2018 - a month before Khan says he was told.
Speaking to assembly members, Morgan said: “I do not suffer from loss of memory. Do you really think when a piece of paper says delivery in 2018 is not feasible that it is what it is? I don’t know what other interpretation there is of the presentation I gave the Mayor on 26 July. There was a very clear indication and understanding that we would not be able to deliver Crossrail in 2018.”
After telling Khan and then the transport secretary on 31 July, Morgan says TfL's communications team spent the much of the month of August deciding the communications strategy of how best to reveal the news of Crossrail's delay to the public. However, emails "went offline" so there would likely be no record of exchanges.
More remarkably, the former chair also accused London’s transport body of feeding him information on what to tell board members. “In a TfL board meeting on 25 July, I was given a briefing as I walked into the room on what to say that took any reference that there was going to be a delay,” Morgan explained.
But the former Crossrail boss did not stop there, he went on to say that TfL also deleted a paragraph in a weekly briefing note that was sent to the mayor. He claims the note on 19 June removed a specific warning about testing issues without explanation.
A major stumbling block of rolling stock was also covered in the hour-long meeting. While acknowledging Crossrail was responsible for systems integration, Morgan reaffirmed that it was TfL that was responsible for the rolling stock contract. He says a change in contract from PFI to direct meant trains on the line were 18 months behind schedule and this in turn impacted on testing systems integration.
Despite the problems encountered, Morgan remained positive about his tenure with the organisation but wished things had turned out differently. “I am very proud of my time; nothing will ever change that. Words cannot describe how disappointed I am by the delay but it’s vital we now get Crossrail open and Londoners will see how phenomenal it is.”