TfL Rail train at Acton Main Line, May 2018
Crossrail trains won’t be picking up SE London passengers in 2019 – and are unlikely to in 2020 either

Abbey Wood’s MP has has called Crossrail “mismanagement on an epic scale” as fears grow that commuters in south-east London could be forced to wait even longer for the train line to start running.

The Elizabeth line, Europe’s biggest infrastructure project, had been due to open in December 2018, but will not now open fully until 2020 at the earliest.

Once eventually functioning, trains will go from Abbey Wood, through Woolwich to central London and out to the west.

The cost of the route has already risen from £14.8bn to £17.6bn, and MPs are not convinced this won’t continue to grow.

A shocking new report by the House of Commons public accounts committee has blasted the Department for Transport and Crossrail for taking an “unacceptable laissez-faire” attitude to its eye-watering costs.

MPs said a “fixation on a delivery deadline of December 2018” led to warnings the project was in trouble being missed.

Neither organisation has yet explained “how the programme has been allowed to unravel”, the committee said, and there are now concerns it won’t deliver value for money. The committee also said there is a risk of more delays and further cost increases.

Erith and Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce, who represents Abbey Wood, said she was dismayed at the committee’s findings.

“Crossrail was due to open in December 2018 bringing in a vital new rail service through London for local people from Abbey Wood station,” she said.

“A revised opening in autumn 2019 had been advised, but in all honesty my confidence in that timetable – and whether the £2.8 billion loan will be sufficient – has been shattered.

“It is inconceivable to me that the Department for Transport and Crossrail were not able to identify the root causes of the delay to the public accounts committee. This is mismanagement on an epic scale.”

Eltham North councillor Charlie Davis, the opposition spokesman for transport, had brought a motion calling for Greenwich Council to pressure the London Mayor for a new opening date.

Cllr Davis said: “The report confirms the misgivings many of us have held for a long time regarding the governance of Crossrail and a failure to take ownership of what has turned into a complete mess.

“This lack of accountability has turned a project that should have been cause for celebration into an albatross around the neck of taxpayers. It’s vital that the residents and businesses of our borough now receive a clear and transparent message on when Crossrail will open.”

Crossrail says the new line will connect Abbey Wood to Liverpool Street in just 17 minutes, but there is still no official date for when services will be operating.

Public accounts committee chairwoman Meg Hillier MP said: “Passengers were led to believe they would be able use new Crossrail services through central London from the end of last year. Instead, they have been badly let down by significant delays and cost overruns.

“It is clear that the delivery deadline of December 2018 had been unrealistic for some time. But the Department for Transport, Transport for London and Crossrail Limited continued to put a positive face on the programme long after mounting evidence should have prompted changes.”

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Tom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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