LONDON UNDERGROUND (LU) is pressing contractors responsible for upgrading the Tube to step up their engineer recruitment drives so they can resource £1bn a year of privately financed upgrade work.
LU fears that delays in assembling a workforce with the necessary skills will hamper assessments of the condition of assets and prioritising work.
This could affect schedules for renewing and upgrading the underground system.
LU's new managing director Tim O'Toole and chief programmes officer Bob Janowski said skill shortages have come to light in meetings with contractors Tubelines and Metronet.
Tubelines is responsible for upgrading the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly Lines. Metronet has a contract for the subsurface Metropolitan, Circle and District Lines and the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria (BCV) Lines.
'Our concern is that they are addressing the problems properly and that they have the right people, ' said Janowski.
Janowski said that the consortiums' 30 year contracts will give them the opportunity and incentive to recruit new engineers, but that they 'need to pick up the pace on getting that resource'.
However, Janowski confirmed that 'we cannot force Metronet and Tubelines to take on extra staff unless it becomes a safety issue.
'We are having a partnering meeting once every four weeks - we want to bring the issue to a head. So far we have been able to ask questions and get them to admit they are short of people, ' he added.
LU is focusing particular attention on Metronet's BCV contract. It has to tackle rolling stock problems on the Central Line, signalling problems on the Victoria Line and the logistics of track maintenance and replacement on the Bakerloo Line.
'Metronet BCV is seeking new resources on a day to day basis to find answers to those problems, but there are only so many people in the world qualified to work on London Underground, ' Janowski said.
'Take signals - you can bring people in from Asia and Europe but there's 12 weeks to four months training needed even for some of the simpler work.'
Metronet confirmed it is looking for engineers - particularly project managers. A Tubelines spokesman said that it expected most of the necessary engineering expertise to be provided by consultants and contractors in its supply chain.