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Bechtel 'could end up taking over Metronet'

Engineers this week expected Transport for London (TfL) to ask Bechtel to run the Metronet contracts for the London Underground upgrade if it successfully brings the failed PPP back in-house.

TfL made a formal bid for the Metronet contracts last week but so far Tube Lines, of which Bechtel is joint shareholder with Amey, has yet to table a rival offer.

One observer said there was no need for Bechtel to bid as it was so well placed to pick up the work.

"Why bother going through the process of bidding if you can just wait for Transport for London to call you?" said one rail engineer.

Tube Lines holds contracts to upgrade London Underground's Piccadilly, Northern and Jubilee lines. Metronet has contracts to upgrade the rest of the Underground network and is owned by Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Bombardier, EDF Energy, and Thames Water.Imperial College professor of transport and infrastructure Stephen Glaister said that bringing Metronet back to the TfL fold would be very difficult.

"Assuming they (TfL) are successful, how would they handle the contracts? What would they bring in-house? In a short space of time, it would be a very large job to review all of Metronet's contracts," he said.

Metronet administrators Ernst & Young last week dismissed five senior Metronet executives including Andrew Lezala, who is replaced by former Edinburgh tram project director Andie Harper.

A TfL spokesman said that if its bid for the contracts was successful it would keep the replacement management team installed by Ernst & Young for the short term. But it will review the structure of the organisation, which maintains the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines under one contract and the Metropolitan, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City under another.

"Clearly we will need to work with the private sector but exactly what structure that will take we will need to work out once it is back under our control," the spokesman added.

A Bechtel spokesman declined to comment on whether it had considered managing Metronet for TfL.

A Tube Lines spokesman would not comment on whether it would submit a bid until it had seen the evaluation of Metronet by bankers Rothschild. This has yet to be made public.

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