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DfT quizzed after Tube upgrade lawyers paid five times more than engineers

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MPS LAST week challenged the Department for Transport (DfT) over its decision to spend almost five times as much money on lawyers than on engineering advisors when negotiating the £15.7bn upgrade of London's Underground.

The Commons public accounts committee questioned why only £6M was spent on engineering advice from Arup while £29M was spent with legal advisor Freshfields.

This was in spite of the fact that uncertainty about the condition of underground assets led bidders to increase their cost estimates.

Questions were raised after public spending watchdog the National Audit Office criticised the privately financed Underground upgrade deals.

It concludes that 'there is only limited assurance that the price that would be paid to the private sector is reasonable'.

Committee member Richard Bacon questioned DfT permanent secretary David Rowlands over the differences in amounts spent on lawyers and engineering advice.

'The engineers assessing the asset condition got £6M, and the lawyers got £29M. Do you think this is an accurate representation of the priorities the Department had?' he asked.

'Yes, ' said Rowlands. 'You would not have bottomed the state of the assets by spending more with Arup or any other engineering company, ' he added.

Rowlands said that many of the underground tunnels were Victorian and that their true condition could not be have been assessed without carrying out full scale maintenance work.

NCE understands that tight timescales and the need to minimise disruption to the Tube network limited Arup's scope of work to a desk study of London Underground records.

INFOPLUS To access a copy of the NAO report go to www. nceplus.co.uk

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