Forensic focus needed for crossrail to deliver the Elizabeth line

Posted on 04 February 2021

A ‘forensic focus’ approach will need to be taken by Transport For London to ensure the Elizabeth Line is finished within the correct timescale and budget.

The London Assembly's transport committee emphasised the need for a forensic focus to ensure that no aspect of delivering the project on time and the budget is missed. Inadequate project management could lead to overspending, as the committee stresses that no one should be complacent in the final phase of the project. The report expresses concern about a lack of sufficient resources and specialist skills to complete the final phase of the project, particularly concerning testing, safety assurance, and linking up digital assets.

The London Assembly's transport committee recently released a report urging a strong and focused approach to ensure that the much-anticipated Crossrail project meets its revised 2022 opening date. The report titled "Crossrail: Light at the end of the tunnel?" highlights five key areas that Transport For London and the mayor will need to focus on.

The five key areas are:

  • Financial stability of Transport For London and Crossrail

  • Refining Crossrail’s new leadership and governance structure

  • The well-being of staff and deployment

  • Evaluating lessons learned to develop better ways of working

  • Clear timelines that include delays like COVID-19 impacts and extra costs

To address these concerns, the committee has put forth seven recommendations, including sharing a high-level timeline, creating a clear plan to address project vacancies, involving Jacobs as the project representative, and enhancing Network Rail's role within the new governance structure. The report also raises concerns about resource levels, with Crossrail CEO Mark Wild acknowledging that there is a "big risk" of engineers leaving to work on other projects.

Despite these concerns, TfL senior management remains optimistic about the project, with Commissioner Andy Byford setting his team the target of getting the line open this year and under its revised budget. Byford believes that opening the Elizabeth Line would symbolise London's "phoenix-like resurgence" from Covid. He welcomes the London Assembly's recognition of the importance of the Crossrail project and assures everyone that his focus remains on safely opening the Elizabeth line as soon as possible.

Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, Dr Alison Moore, commented: “Now that Crossrail has been handed over to the Mayor and TfL to deliver, it is vital that they adopt a forensic focus to make sure no aspect of delivering the project on time and budget is missed. 

“Covid-19 has understandably put increased financial and staff pressures on Crossrail opening the Elizabeth line. However, there are aspects to delivering Crossrail, such as supporting employees’ workloads and better forecasting project delays, that can contribute to delivering as promised.”

The report highlights the need for a strong and focused approach to ensure that the Crossrail project meets its revised 2022 opening date. With concerns raised about a lack of resources and specialist skills, and the potential for overspending due to inadequate project management, all parties involved in the project must work together to ensure its successful completion. Byford's optimism and determination are commendable, and with a Sherlock-style forensic focus, the project can overcome the challenges and deliver a safe and efficient service to Londoners.

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