Chris Grayling was, and let’s be kind about this, not a good transport secretary. After his stints as not a good shadow home secretary, quite a bad leader of the House, and actively terrible justice secretary, this came as no particular surprise, and the most shocking thing was that he managed to push on through a month of chaos on the railway network last year without even coming close to being forced to take responsibility for his brief.
His decision not to serve in the Johnson administration was thus one of the few bright spots in the darkness of yesterday’s reshuffle, although it did mean we were denied the satisfaction of seeing him forced out, then tarred and feathered by furious Northern Rail passengers.
It also meant that one of his last acts as transport secretary was to issue this statement about the state of the Crossrail project. It bangs on for an age about all the ways in which it’s been a “challenging year” for London’s multi-billion pound new railway, and the various actions that have been taken – extra money, independent reviews, new management and so on – in the vain hope of getting the bloody thing finished.
Hidden in the middle of it though you’ll find this innocuous sentence:
The announcement in April 2019 of a revised schedule which confirmed a 6 month window for delivery of the central tunnel section between Abbey Wood and Paddington (not including Bond Street), with a mid-point in December 2020, with more certainty to follow as testing progresses.
And December 2020, remember, is the mid-point of the predicted opening window. What this means, in other words, is that the central section of Crossrail – not the entire line, just the new tunnel at its heart – could open as late as March 2021 without the timetable being considered to have slipped any further than it has already. It was originally due to open in December 2018, so if everything from here on goes well, which it very possibly won’t, it’ll open 27 months late.
I don’t wish to personalise this too much, but for those of us who moved house in November 2018 to somewhere we had chosen in part because of its proximity to a Crossrail station, this is really very irritating.