Senior source says bosses knew December 2018 opening date was not realistic well before delay was confirmed

Crossrail should have known months before it was officially confirmed that the scheme was way behind schedule, a senior project source has told Building.

The delay was first announced at the end of August last year before chief executive Mark Wild admitted last month that he had no idea when the line would open


Source: Crossrail

A senior project source told Building this week: “A lot of the work on Crossrail has been absolutely brilliant. But because it was very successful in the early stages, a myth built up.

“I think it was decided that this reputation was absolutely crucial, meaning the on-time, on-budget mantra was carried on long beyond when it should have done.”

The source added: “The warning signs were there 18 months ago. And actually most people on the ground knew that the opening date wasn’t realistic. At the latest the dynamic train testing should have begun in early 2018. When it didn’t, it should have been pretty clear.”

In documents released by Transport for London, a letter from Juergen Maier, chief executive of signalling contractor Siemens, to Transport for London’s commissioner Mike Brown last February, made clear there were real worries then the scheme would bust its December 2018 opening date.

Maier set out his fears of “completely missing” the December opening date, and added he was not the only one who was concerned.

“As we all know, an opening date in December remains an enormous challenge given the complexity of the integration phase which lies ahead.”

He said the problems besetting “civils and energisation contractors” had delayed the installation of the signalling system by a year. And an 18-month delay to the trains meant, he said, “the available testing window has reduced from 18 to five months”.

He told Brown that Siemens was being given “an increasingly unrealistic expectation to recover the delays caused by others”.

The senior project source added: “Because of the civils delays, the decision was taken to compress the testing and installation of the signals at the end of the programme. But the signalling installation isn’t possible when you’re doing dynamic train testing.”

Who knew what and when has turned into a public spat between former Crossrail chair Terry Morgan and London mayor Sadiq Khan.

But Stan Hornagold, former programme director on the London Underground PPP, told Building: “Whether the mayor was told [last] July or August is neither here nor there … Either date is about a year too late.”

Crossrail said it has been reviewing the work completed so far ahead of coming up with a new opening date. Chief executive Mark Wild said: “There are two critical paths for Crossrail – dynamic testing of the railway and completion of the stations. Over 6,000 people are still working on site with a huge number involved in core fit-out.”

Separate investigations into the Crossrail programme are being carried out by the London Assembly and the National Audit Office.