Boris is fond of putting professional gloss on the Borisport scheme by referring to Doug Oakervee, his pet engineer on the study and currently Non-Executive Chairman of Crossrail Ltd., in glowing terms as the man who built Hong Kong airport, etc. (although Boris is rather reticent on the fact that Oakervee was originally appointed by Alistair Darling):

“The trip has reaffirmed in my mind that a new airport in the Thames estuary has got to be factored in as an option for London’s long-term aviation needs. I am reassured by a number of aspects of this visit and will now eagerly await Doug Oakervee’s initial feasibility study.”

Well, if New Civil Engineer is to be believed, there’s going to be a shake up at the top of Crossrail by the new boss, Rob Holden:

Holden said that one of his first tasks would be to assemble a team capable of seeing the project through to completion in 2017. He will move to Crossrail in April from High Speed 1 operator London and Continental Railways (LCR) where he is chief executive.

“There are a number of people here who are coming to the end of their careers who, although they won’t fully admit it, don’t see themselves being here through to the end,” he said.

That sounds ominously like Holden wants to bring in his own team with younger guys, to stamp his mark on the project in the early days.  We’re at a pretty vital stage of the project at the moment, when a lot of decisions need to be take that will be rather expensive to reverse.  Changing a number of horses in midstream is often a pointer that things are not going smoothly in the organisation, although in this case it was inevitable as part of moving from a proposed project to a construction site.

Doug Oakervee himself might well be considered as one of the ‘number of people’ referred to – he’s already been ousted as Executive Chairman by the arrival of Holden as Chief Executive, and those sort of battles tend to end up with the loser walking away, however much the early spin is of a united front going forward and it all being in the best interests yada yada.  He’s also, how shall we say, not in the first flush of youth.  Holden offers this slightly lukewarm tribute:

Doug has brought the project through to where it is and has a knowledge base which would be silly not to tap into and use as much as I can in these early weeks.

Oakervee was also going to step aside by November when Terry Morgan moves across from Tube Lines (the NCE interview suggests this may happen sooner rather than later), but this eye-opening snippet suggests that Holden is already unhappy with him moonlighting on Borisport at a critical stage in Crossrail’s reorganisation:

Holden said he was keen to tap into Oakervee’s knowledge in the early stages of the project, but added that Oakervee needed to work out how to balance his other interests, which include investigating London mayor Boris Johnson’s plans for a Thames Estuary airport (Analysis last week).

Pretty clear shot across the bows there, and also a taster of the possible relationship between Boris and Holden.  The latter is a tough operator with a track record of delivery, and Boris will be relying on him.  If the cost of that is Oakervee’s involvement in the airport scheme, will Boris pay it?  Alternatively, if Oakervee is ousted from Crossrail in a few weeks time, Boris can have his undivided attention.  Mind you, the Mayor might be wise to check that the multi-billion pound project that’s a) actually got funding and b) is in London is running well before turning back to vanity projects.

Who was it who said civil engineering was boring?

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