Mayor orders TfL and Crossrail sites to shut - despite being overruled by PM on wider site shutdown

TfL joined a rush of contractors and clients today announcing they were to close sites to halt the spread of coronavirus.

This includes the delayed £18bn Crossrail project which was originally due to open in December 2018, with its latest completion date previously set at next summer. Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild said: “While we are doing everything we safely can to keep the Crossrail programme on track, covid-19 will have an impact – it’s too early to tell what that impact will be." He said they were liaising closely with contractors and their supply chains.

TfL commissioner Mike Brown said the government and London mayor Sadiq Khan had given clear instructions to stay safe and to stop travelling in all cases other than critical workers making absolutely essential journeys.

Brown said: "In line with this, TfL and Crossrail will be bringing all project sites to a temporary safe stop unless they need to continue for operational safety reasons. This means that work on all such projects will be temporarily suspended as soon as it is safe to do so."

He said essential maintenance of the transport network would continue, adding: “This is being done to ensure the safety of our construction and project teams and also to further reduce the number of people travelling on the public transport network.

“It is vital that the transport network is only used by critical workers. As we work through these issues with our supply chain, consideration will be given to the impact on workers, particularly those who are on low incomes."

TfL is also working with a number of architects to develop hundreds of homes across the capital, as well as its transport projects such as the Northern Line Extension and the upgrade of Old Street roundabout.

>> Also read: PLP, KPF and Squires sites to close as major contractors ignore government


Meanwhile Khan claimed the prime minister overruled him after he called for the closure of construction sites in the capital.

He said that, during a meeting of the government’s emergency COBRA committee, he argued that construction workers should not be going to work unless it was for safety reasons.

Speaking to LBC, the mayor said: “I was over-ruled by the PM, who doesn’t believe that construction workers should be at home. The prime minister believes construction workers should be going to work and that they can do it safely.”

Today's closure announcements included a cascade of housebuilders. Barratt said at lunchtime that it will shut all 400 sites, following the lead of Taylor Wimpey, which announced it was shutting all of its sites and sales offices today, and Galliard Homes which said its decision would remove 2,500 workers from the public transport system. Others said they were reviewing their position.

Mace announced it would shut its 90 active sites in the UK from 5pm today while new safety procedures were being discussed. Its projects include Wilkinson Eyre’s Battersea Power Station and the Paddington Cube designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

A spokesperson said: ”It has become clear that we are unable to comply with Public Health England recommendations on social distancing of our workforce and we therefore have made the difficult decision today to temporarily suspend all of Mace’s site operations – with the exception of safety critical work – for at least the next 48 hours from 5pm this evening.”

ReidSteel is shutting its manufacturing plant in Dorset as well as its construction sites. A full and updated list of sites closures can be found on Building Design's sister magazine Building.

Graham Watts, chief executive of the Construction Industry Council, has also raised concerns about the idea sites can simply be locked up and left.

He tweeted: "Construction sites cannot just be left. They need to be prepared for closure and left in a way that is safe and secure. Work is being done on guidance about how to shut down sites safely."

Alasdair Reisner, chief executive of CECA, agreed that some sites could simply not be shut due to the stage of construction, while others should be kept open as they were providing essential services to the NHS or other emergency services.

Keep up to date with all Building Design’s architecture and coronavirus coverage here.