The HS2 rail project could be facing a setback amid reports that its chairman could be ousted from his post.
The Financial Times (FT) reports that Prime Minister Theresa May is poised to sack Sir Terry Morgan, who also chairs London’s delayed £15bn Crossrail project.
He is expected to leave both jobs within weeks after a series of recent disclosures about problems at both projects raised doubts about his performance, according to the FT.
It has prompted fears of potential cuts to infrastructure spending from unions and criticism from the Stop HS2 Campaign who branded HS2 as “a mess, it’s always been a mess”.
It is reported that Sir Terry, who started work at HS2 in August, may leave amid fears that costs are spiralling out of control.
Sir Terry was hailed as “world-class” when he was appointed by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.
Downing Street, the Department for Transport and HS2 declined to comment.
A Transport Department spokesman said it “did not comment on speculation nor on personnel matters.”
Reacting to the reports, unions warned of cuts to spending on rail projects.
Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: “My big fear is that blaming ‘spiralling costs’, is Tory code for more infrastructure cuts to come.
“It was always nuts to have one person responsible for heading up both these enormous infrastructure projects. More so now that both are not on target.”
Stop HS2 Campaign manager Joe Rukin suggested it would be “bizarre” to sack Sir Terry now as opposed to any other time in the project.
He said: “The bottom line is that HS2 is a mess, it’s always been a mess, and imagining that this is the fault of a man who has only been in charge for four months is a delusional attempt by politicians to absolve themselves of the reality that it is their lack of scrutiny and objectivity that is responsible for HS2 being a disaster.”
Sir Terry has been chairman on the Crossrail project since June 2009.
It was announced on August 31 that the capital’s new east-west railway will open in autumn 2019 rather than December this year to complete infrastructure and testing.
The project’s budget was increased from £14.8 billion to £15.4 billion in July due to “cost pressures”. It is being predominantly funded by Transport for London (TfL) and the Government.
In October, it was announced both TfL and the Department for Transport had commissioned an independent review of Crossrail’s governance and a separate review of its finance and commercial position.