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03.12.18

Sir Terry Morgan ‘expects to be sacked’ as HS2 chairman over Crossrail delays

Sir Terry Morgan has said he expects to be sacked as chairman of HS2 in the next few days after taking up the role only four months ago.

Speaking on the early evening news programme on BBC Radio 4, Morgan said there was disappointment at Westminster about the big delays plaguing Crossrail as the project runs over budget and at least nine months behind schedule.

As the chairman of the struggling Elizabeth Line project, it was reported on Friday that Theresa May was expected to move against Morgan, who was dubbed as “world-class” by Chris Grayling when appointed as HS2 boss in July.

First reported by the Financial Times, it is thought that both Grayling and Philip Hammond had declared they had no confidence in Morgan’s leadership and urged May to remove him.

A government official close to HS2 was quoted in the FT as saying: “They told the prime minister they have no confidence in him and she agrees. It is only a question of finding the right moment to announce it.”

On Saturday, speaking in an interview with the BBC, Sir Terry revealed he expected to be removed from his HS2 role in the coming days and that he had “mixed feelings.”

Morgan explained: “I can only assume that because HS2 is such a critically important programme and with the sense of disappointment around the performance of Crossrail, that it was considered to be too risky for a programme like HS2 to continue in my role as chairman.”

He said he was “disappointed” that he would no longer have the opportunity to give his experience and knowledge to HS2 and that he had a “sense of responsibility or contribution to the position in terms of Crossrail.”

Work on HS2, the £55.7bn high-speed rail network which will connect London to Birmingham and Manchester to Leeds, is already underway with Birmingham’s Curzon Street station the latest construction bid to be announced.

Phase 1 of HS2 between London and Birmingham is due to open in 2026, with Phase Two projected to be finished by 2032-33, and the government is keen to avoid any delays to this time-scale as seen with Crossrail.

Morgan called HS2 a “fantastic programme that has huge potential,” but it will be a big challenge to deliver it.

He added that it did not have the “same difficulties” as completing Crossrail, which was due to open in December but has since been delayed till autumn 2019 and was last month handed a £350m government short-term loan in order to prevent further delays.

Morgan is said to have angered London mayor Sadiq Khan, who himself has been embroiled with controversy regarding Crossrail.

Image credit -  Ben Birchall/PA Wire/PA Images

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