Mayor Sadiq Khan has been accused of misleading the public over the Crossrail delay controversy, as temperatures rise in the row over what he knew and when.
Mayor Khan had maintained that he was only informed that the project would be delayed on 29 August, when a Crossrail Board confirmed the December 2018 opening date could not be met. The scheme is now set to open in Autumn 2019, following a £600m bailout.
However statements made by Crossrail chairman, Sir Terry Morgan CBE, Simon Wright, Crossrail's chief executive and programme director, and even Heidi Alexander, deputy mayor for Transport appear to contradict this and suggest the mayor must have known by late July that a delay was all but inevitable.
On top of this, briefing notes from a July meeting- which have not been released yet from Transport for London (TfL) - apparently back up Sir Terry' suggestion the mayor's office knew about the issues earlier than he claimed, Transport Network understands.
Transport committee chair Caroline Pidgeon AM told Transport Network: 'We are starting to get to the bottom of this. I understand that Sir Terry Morgan yesterday gave some journalists the briefing that was given to the mayor in July, which showed that the project was going to be delayed.
'Clearly the mayor is still choosing to try to spin it differently but he clearly knew from early summer that it wasn’t going to open on time. He may not have known that it would be a year’s delay but he knew it wasn’t going to open on time.
'I think it’s really strange the line the mayor has taken on this, because to deny all knowledge to the day before the public [were told] would suggest you are not on top of your job, when actually he had been briefed earlier.
'He’s chosen this line of commentary and what it has left is people thinking there’s a cover up. The more documents that come out, the more they are highlighting that his line doesn’t seem to quite stack up.
'It feels that he has misled the London Assembly – you know, that’s politicians – he’s misled Londoners on what he really knew about Crossrail.'
Ms Alexander also revealed to the London Assembly Transport Committee that she was informed in late July that there were problems with the schedule making it harder for the mayor to claim the first he heard about the difficulties was late August.
A spokesman for the mayor said: 'The Mayor has been clear that he discussed rising cost and schedule pressures with Crossrail Ltd over the summer, including looking at the implications if these issues weren’t resolved. At the meeting at the end of July it was clear that the opening date was at high risk of being missed but it was not until the end of August that the Mayor was told that the opening of the central section would definitely be delayed until Autumn 2019.'
He went on to suggest Sir Terry Morgan should be sacked from his post and would have been made to leave already were it not for the fact that DfT and Network Rail are also managing the project.
'The mayor considers it a damning indictment of Crossrail governance that the mayor and TfL had to commission an independent report to tell them the true scale of the delays to the project. This is the kind of crucial information that really should have come from the chairman, but didn’t.
'In September, the deputy mayor for transport and TfL Commissioner met Terry Morgan at the mayor’s behest, telling him they’d lost confidence in him because the information he was providing was so inaccurate. Furthermore, Terry Morgan’s recent comments about the mayor are also riddled with contradictions and inaccuracies.
'The leadership of Crossrail is a joint decision with Government - as it's a joint project. But if it had been down to the Mayor, the matter would have been resolved long before now.'
The mayor's office has said it will release briefing notes and board minutes, but 'it needs to be gone through thoroughly because there is a large amount of confidential commercial information’.
In May and June this year the risk register around the signalling and around the station fit-out started to move from green to amber and red.
A Board meeting was held on 19 July when the indication from the Crossrail executive was that they could 'no longer have confidence in the date of opening for December,' Sir Terry said.
He added: 'I made the decision at the Board meeting on 19 July to instruct the executive to go away and do more work and to make absolutely certain that there was no way of mitigating the risk that they had identified. That was when we called the meeting for 29 August to give them sufficient time to do that work. We informally briefed the sponsors at that stage.'
Ms Alexander confirmed that she was told about the difficulties shortly after this 19 July meeting (a week later, according to Sir Terry); however a formal position was not taken until 29 August and, she said there was 'undue optimism' during the summer about the planned December start date.