The Anonymous Widower

Crossrail: Report Finds Not Enough Money To Finish Project

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

These are the first two paragraphs.

The cost of completing Crossrail exceeds available funding, the government spending watchdog has found.

The National Audit Office (NAO) estimates the cost of the new rail link will be between £30m and £218m above the current funding.

After such a good start with the tunneling and surface line going well, how did we get here?

My main business for nearly forty years was writing project management software and that gave me a deep insight into the dynamics and mathematics of large projects.

The software, I created in the 1970s; Artemis was deeply involved in the most important project of the time; North Sea Oil.

But then more by luck, than any judgement on my part, it was well suited to solving the management problems of North Sea Oil.

The software ran on a small Hewlett-Packard mini-computer with an attached display and a printer, whose footprint, gave Artemis an advantage over competitors who needed a mainframe, for which there was no office space in Aberdeen.

I had first got involved in scheduling resources at ICI about five years earlier and because from previous experience I knew resources would be critical, I gave the program extensive resource aggregation and scheduling capabilities.

I have been told that the latter proved invaluable in successfully developing North Sea Oil. People may have been flattering me, but I do know that Shell used to ensure that all their suppliers used Artemis, so they could check easily if they were being told the truth.

I suspect that Shell and others used the aggregation capability to see that they weren’t overloading the pool of available labour.

Artemis definitely proved itself capable of handling the various projects in the North Sea.

We have now moved on forty years, but has project management moved on to cope with the advances in technology of the modern world?

As with North Sea Oil in Aberdeen, in the 1970s, Crossrail and other large projects like Berlin’s new Brandenburg Airport will always have a need for large numbers of resources, be they men, materiel or machines.

I have some questions.

  • Do all contractors working on Crossrail use the same software?
  • Does Crossrail have the right to inspect the contractors project management systems?
  • Is the upward reporting what it needs to be?
  • Does the software the contractors use, have an aggregation capability?
  • Do Crossrail track and predict the resources needed?

Someone I respect told me, that a lot of modern project management software doesn’t even have an aggregation capability- Enough said!

I must admit, aggregation and scheduling software is difficult to write, so it might be easier to cut it out and let your clients muddle through!

But The Tunnels Were Built On Time And On Budget!

It all started so well, with the first part of the project, which was the boring of the tunnels being completed on time and on budget.

Observing the project, as I did and picking up information from engineers working on the tunnels and various magazines and television programs, I have to come to the conclusion, that the credit for the on time and budget completion must be down to excellent planning.

  • I don’t remember any delays or problems reported in the tunneling. Was that good planning and surveying or luck?
  • There were few if any articles on the BBC or in the Standard complaining about the problems the tunneling was inflicting on Londoners.
  • The planners realised there could be a shortage of workers qualified to work underground, so they built the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy at Ilford, which I wrote about in Open House – TUCA.

Certainly, St Barbara, who is the patron saint of tunnellers looked after the project and its builders.

Worsening The Resource Problem

Crossrail, the Greater London Authority and the Boroughs should have been monitoring this growing resource problem, but I doubt they were in anything other than a perfunctory way!

Instead the politicians were giving planning permission to anybody with money, who wanted to build a shiny new development close to a station.

These projects would need more men, materiel or machines.

As many of these new developments are backed by companies or funds with bottomless pockets to get their developments finished they were prepared to pay more for their labour.

So labour has been deserting Crossrail in droves, thus further delaying the project.

Senior politicians in the Greater London Authority and the boroughs should accept some responsibility for Crossrail’s delay.

They didn’t need to withhold the planning permission, just say that construction of the other projects couldn’t commence until an appropriate phase of Crossrail was open.

In some parts of the world, brown envelopes will have changed hands, but it would be nice to know how many mayors and senior politicians have had holidays in places, they would not normally visit.

Senior project managers tell me, that they would not be surprised if developments along Crossrail had delayed the project.

The Covid Problem

No-one saw Covid coming, except possibly the Chinese.

But good project management is all about negotiating the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

There is the story of the miniMetro production line.

The first body shells coming out of the automated welder were crooked and it turned out that the machine had hit a motorway bridge in Germany. But by good project management using Artemis, British Leyland engineers were able to get the second line working correctly before the first and the car was launched on time.

With Covid, the Mayor shut construction, and it was some months before it restarted again.

I am certain, that with good project management we could have done better.

Covid is also a good excuse for lateness.

On the other hand good project management got the vaccines developed, manufactured and delivered into arms.

Covid also blew a big hole in Transport for London’s finances.

But then so did Sadiq Khan’s Fare Freeze, that brought him to office.

Could Crossrail Have Part-Opened Earlier?

I often ponder this and others ask me if it would be possible.

The Victoria Line was built with crossovers and it was able to open in phases.

Crossrail has crossovers in the following places.

  • Either side of Custom House station
  • To the West of Whitechapel station
  • Between Farringdon and Tottenham Court Road stations

Note.

  1. It doesn’t appear to have been built for part opening.
  2. From media reports, it appears Whitechapel station is the basket case in the East.

The answer is probably that Crossrail can’t be part-opened, but there are good reasons, why it should be opened earlier.

  • To generate a small amount of revenue.
  • To give travellers and Londoners in general a lift.

The only practical service would be a few trains turning at Farringdon.

Conclusion

I blame politicians for Crossrail being late and over budget.

July 10, 2021 Posted by | Finance, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Mayors Are The Future

This is the theme of an interesting article in The Spectator entitled Governments have failed – mayors are the future. It is a must read.

 

As a Londoner, I always argue, that London’s transport system and especially the Underground, Overground and buses are so good, because they are controlled and often designed by people who answer to the people, business and visitors to London.

I can remember, when I left London in the 1960s and started to use Liverpool buses a lot, how I found the plastic covered seats strange, compared to the cloth ones on the RT buses in London.

Even in those days, London did its own thing, because that is what London Transport, the controlling Greater London Council and electorate wanted. Ken and Boris have raised this local control to a new level. And it’s not just these two, but the next London mayor, whoever he or she is and which party they belong to, will raise the standard higher.

This paragraph is very much to the point.

Londoners (there are more of them than Scots and Welsh put together) can argue that Boris has made more of an impact on their lives than David Cameron. And this is with the Mayor of London having fewer powers than most mayors. He is one of many from around the world — Tony Tan in Singapore, Yury Luzhkov of Moscow and Wolfgang Schuster in Stuttgart — who argue that the city is the optimum government unit.

So when voters outside of London complain that London gets too big a slice of the cake, is the problem not London, but their second-rate politicians, who fight local squabbles, rather than do the best for their electorate?

You also have the problem that central government doesn’t like giving power to elected mayors in cities, as it reduces their own power.

But surely, if say Leeds wants a tram system, then that should be a decision for the people, businesses and local politicians of that city.

April 13, 2014 Posted by | World | , | 1 Comment

The Metropol Parasol In Seville

The Metropol Parasol in Seville,  must be one of the worst pieces of architecture and design, I’ve ever seen.

I was also told by a couple, I met beside it, that when it’s hot in summer, the market underneath is not a pleasant place to be.

I should think too, that being made of wood and glue, it could be a bit of a fire risk.

Apparently, though, it was built by a retiring mayor, who wanted to leave his mark on the city. Ken, Boris and the other UK mayors, may have big egos, but I can’t think of any legacy of a mayor, that wasn’t received positively.

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Mayoral Referenda

What is the most disappointing about this election is the rejection of new mayors in places like Manchester and Nottingham.

I moved to Hackney in London because a stroke meant I couldn’t drive and I needed good public transport. The Mayor, whoever he or she is, certainly gives London a focus and I believe helps to improve public transport and other things, that are important to the city.

The rejection of mayors is probably a vote for the status quo, as a good mayor would probably do more for the city, than an entrenched party of old time-servers.

Recently, I visited all 92 football clubs in alphabetical order by public transport. Manchester, and I mean Greater Manchester, has the worst public transport of any major conurbation.  An elected mayor might just bring it all together and create a system that works. At present, all the local authorities have too much control and create the mess they’ve got.

May 4, 2012 Posted by | News | , , | Leave a comment