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Former Crossrail chief executive Simon Wright to advise on £2bn Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro



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A former chief executive of Crossrail has been tasked with driving forward the £2billion metro scheme for Cambridgeshire.

Simon Wright also worked on the Olympic Park in London and the Euston station redevelopment and is involved in the redevelopment of the Houses of Parliament.

Simon Wright, a former Crossrail chief executive, will act as a consultant on the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro project for the Combined Authority (41355051)
Simon Wright, a former Crossrail chief executive, will act as a consultant on the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro project for the Combined Authority (41355051)

Mr Wright will act as a part-time consultant for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

He will provide “strategic input” into the development of the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM), the ambitious public transport project that will link Cambridge to the surrounding towns and villages, and feature underground tunnels beneath the city.

Delivery of the mass transit system will be managed by a special purpose vehicle (SPV) - a separate, wholly-owned company.

What a metro entrance tunnel might look like. Picture: Natalie Harmer
What a metro entrance tunnel might look like. Picture: Natalie Harmer

Mr Wright said: “This is a highly innovative, bespoke transport concept for the region and there are few other systems in the world quite like it. But the method of delivery, through a special purpose vehicle, is very familiar and my job will be to challenge how the CAM develops in a positive way.

“That means asking the right, and sometimes difficult, questions to ensure that the assumptions that the scheme are based on are always sound and that the innovative thinking required also leads to cost effective and efficient delivery of a reliable system.

“I have been very impressed by the ambition for the CAM to spearhead a new wave of economic growth and innovation in the region and I’m excited to get started.”

How the underground metro could change the look of the city
How the underground metro could change the look of the city

In particular, Mr Wright has been tasked with developing the One CAM strategy, which aims to bring together the component projects - including the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s (GCP) busway plans - into an integrated scheme.

James Palmer, the Combined Authority mayor, said: “I’m pleased to welcome Simon, who brings a wealth of invaluable and highly relevant experience gained from the delivery of major infrastructure programmes.

CAM is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the UK and a world-first. We need leading people who can combine the bold new thinking necessary with a clear-eyed focus on practical delivery. Simon’s role will be to challenge and improve how CAM is developed.

“Harnessing and deploying the right expertise and talent at the right time will be critical to building the CAM.

“We are now working to recruit an outstanding chair and board for our new SPV and we expect to attract more leading minds locally, nationally and globally because of the innovative nature of this scheme.”

Mayor James Palmer at home in Soham. Picture: Keith Heppell
Mayor James Palmer at home in Soham. Picture: Keith Heppell

Mr Wright’s CV indicates that the Combined Authority has found someone with intimate knowledge of similarly ambitious, and costly, projects for the public sector, with a background in private sector engineering design.

He has more than 40 years’ experience delivering multi-billion pound infrastructure programmes, acting as programme director for Crossrail Ltd between July 2014 and March 2018, and as its CEO for eight months in 2018, helping to deliver the new Elizabeth Line for London. The massive £18.25bn project to install the new 73-mile railway line crossing the capital from west to east, with huge tunnels, represents an extraordinary engineering feat. It has suffered significant delays due to its complexity, and was originally due to open in 2018. Last Friday, Crossrail said it expected the central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood to open in the first half of 2022.

Mr Wright’s other roles have included:

  • director of infrastructure and utilities at the Olympic Delivery Authority for six years leading into the London 2012 Games, during which time he was responsible for the design and implementation of contaminated land treatment, infrastructure and utility projects for the Olympic Park in Stratford
  • Network Rail project development director between 2013 and 2014, when he was responsible for the £3billion redevelopment of Euston railway station
  • director at Arup from 1996-2006
  • director at Mouchel from 1985-1996, including time in Hong Kong
  • engineer at Binnie and Partners, now Black and Veatch, from 1976-1985, working on design projects including Cairo Wastewater, Mudhiq Dam in Saudi Arabia, Alton Water Scheme in Suffolk and the Thames Tidal Defences.

He is a non-executive director of the Restoration and Renewal Delivery Authority Ltd, a special purpose company set up to deliver the restoration of the Houses of Parliament and is a non-executive member of the sponsor board for the project.

The proposed Metro route map
The proposed Metro route map

A Birmingham University graduate and fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers. he was made an OBE in 2012 for his services to the construction Industry.

The Combined Authority said Mr Wright brings technical, commercial and project delivery skills in tunnelling, integrated rail systems and below ground stations to the project, along with governance, integrated project assurance and procurement expertise.

A recommendation for the role of chairman of the CAM special purpose vehicle is expected to be put to the Combined Authority board on September 30.

An artist’s impression of a proposed smaller metro vehicle
An artist’s impression of a proposed smaller metro vehicle

The Combined Authority has said it wants to deliver CAM by 2029 , an ambitious target that has raised questions from some, including Cambridge City Council leader Cllr Lewis Herbert.

The anticipated cost of the metro - which has prompted questions over its viability - was recently halved from more than £4bn to just under £2bn after a technical advisory committee suggested the use of smaller vehicles , which would delivery of the proposed underground tunnels and stations more achievable.

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