Former Labour MP Nick Raynsford is being parachuted into an increasingly frantic effort to salvage Crossrail, the £15bn London rail project that could see its budget soar this week by another 10%.
Sky News has learnt that Mr Raynsford, a former transport minister who stepped down as an MP at the 2015 general election, is being lined up as Crossrail’s deputy chairman.
His appointment is expected to be announced on Monday alongside an acknowledgement in parliament by ministers that the overall cost of the Elizabeth Line is likely to rise by another £1.5bn.
Its full opening, originally scheduled for this autumn, is now likely to be delayed until 2020, according to Whitehall sources.
The news of Mr Raynsford’s impending appointment comes days after Sir Terry Morgan was effectively forced to resign as Crossrail’s chairman after being told that he had lost the confidence of the prime minister and Chris Grayling, the transport secretary.
Sir Terry was also ousted as chairman of HS2 after just four months in the role.
He is expected to be replaced as chairman of Crossrail by Tony Meggs, a former oil executive, according to The Sunday Times.
Mr Raynsford, 72, spent 25 years in parliament, including several years as a minister in the transport department during Tony Blair’s first term as prime minister.
During his stint as an MP, he fought a successful battle to reinstate a Crossrail station in his Woolwich constituency in southeast London.
Sources said he was being drafted in as part of a wider attempt to convince stakeholders that Crossrail’s governance was being overhauled in a bid to draw a line under its problems.
His appointment to the Crossrail board comes amid an investigation led by KPMG, the accountancy firm, into the delays which have beset the project and raised questions about the timing and extent of what Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, knew about the problems.
The additional financing required by the rail scheme is expected to be structured as a combination of additional borrowing powers being granted to its board, along with money from the Greater London Assembly.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said: “Constructive discussions between the Government and Transport for London (TfL) are ongoing on the terms of a longer term funding and financing package for Crossrail, with London – as the primary beneficiary – bearing any additional costs via a financing arrangement.
“All parties are aiming to conclude these discussions as soon as possible.”
Crossrail, which will carry passengers from Paddington to Canary Wharf in 17 minutes, is one of Britain’s biggest rail infrastructure projects for decades.
TfL has boasted that Crossrail will boost Britain’s economy by an estimated £42bn while adding 10% to central London’s rail capacity.
TfL has blamed the delay to the central section of the line on the need for testing communication between trains and signalling systems.
Mr Khan said he had not been informed of the Crossrail delay until two days before it was announced – a claim disputed by Sir Terry.
“I’m extremely frustrated, disappointed and angry at the delay but I’m confident that when completed Crossrail will be a great engineering project and asset for London,” the mayor told the London Assembly in September.
Crossrail has already received hundreds of millions of pounds in additional funding this year.
News of the delay to Crossrail angered business leaders, who had been assured just months earlier that the project, now renamed the Elizabeth Line, was on time and on budget.
The project’s troubles have heaped further pressure on Mr Grayling, who has faced criticism over his handling of a string of privatised rail franchises.