No doubt budget cuts played a part, but unfortunately, this is just typical of how Railway Infrastructure projects work, or don’t, in my experience in the UK.
Anyone associated with Crossrail in the last year/18months could tell you that it would never be ready for the original or even the revised opening target dates. The track and signalling (the railway systems) haven’t even been tested properly yet and I have heard from someone who has done some work on parts of the signalling systems, that they aren’t confident that in its current configuration that parts of its can actully work with the new trains.
The Thameslink project (not the franchise) has been a pre-cursor for Crossrail. It’s been bailed out twice, repeatedly missed its delivery/end dates and parts of it haven’t been planned properly (the new timetable introduction for example). It’s not really in the public realm though, because the only bits that get shouted about with glee are the stations (Blackfriars, London Bridge etc etc) and the bad knock on issues (with the bad bits of the project) to the network can be, in part blamed on the Train operating companies (TOCs). A lot of this is down to Network Rail being a right old mess, but that’s nearly all down to cronic underfunding and a lack of leadership and control from the Department for Transport (DafT) and another politically charged story entirely.
However, the main reason I think that these projects go so wrong is this. NR is funded in Control Period of 5years, the budgets are laid out, effectively bid for and taken by various parts of NR for what they want to do. Projects like TLP used to have ‘ringfenced’ budgets, so they knew what they had full stop, but crucially a lot of the directors either got paid bonus’s on their Control Period delivery targets or came from parts of NR that had/have that mentality. This meant that they came in with a 5yr attitude,did their time making sure it all looked rosy and on target, collected the cash and toddled off to a new project.
Invariably the next set of directors would come in, find a big hole in the books and have to ask for a bit more from the Dft, who can’t really say no, because otherwise it looks like they haven’t been paying attention.....
This goes on untill you get to project close out, which is when someone finds all the bits of the project that were to hard to do/fix/start hidden down the back of the sofa. Then the shit hits the fan properly, but about 15yrs to late.
I am guessing Crossrail is following a similar pattern even though it’s a separate company to NR.
I am sure HS2 will as well, looking at the current roster.
The current state of the Railways makes me very sad (probably in both senses :) )