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London Underground looks to cut down role of big contractors on smaller jobs

Watford Tube platform

London Underground (LU) is looking to cut down the role of main contractors on the Metropolitan Line extension project because they come with “big overheads and costs”.

Programme director Glenn Keelan told New Civil Engineer’s UK Rail conference that he was looking at an alternative procurement route on the £284M project in a bid to bring it back on budget. He said it was currently coming in around £14M over budget.

“As part of the development of the scheme as we continue on through detailed design, we are exploring other procurement strategies,” he said. “This is including looking at packaging the work in a slightly different way which may involve working more directly with the tier 2 and 3 contractors.

“No disrespect to the current novated contractor Taylor Woodrow, but when you deal with big contractors or consultancies like that they have big overheads and costs,” he said.

Keelan explained that on certain parts of the project the use of specialist tier 1 contractors was necessary, however other parts did not warrant the same level of engagement.

“In these times of extended austerity, especially with the pressures that Transport for London (TfL) is under to manage their books better and be more efficient, we have to look to explore other options,” he said.

He added that getting the project back under budget was crucial as it is largely being driven by Hertfordshire and Watford councils to drive economic growth. TfL is funding only 16% of the cost of the project.

“It doesn’t have a standalone railway network business case, it’s very much the child of Hertfordshire and Watford and their drive to build economic growth in that area,” he explained. “It’s heavily funded, in fact almost entirely, by external sources. We have a local enterprise partnership in Hertfordshire county council which is essentially made up of local businesses and interests which have seen the benefit of this extension to their future growth and prosperity.

“That makes up around 45% of the funding, roughly 39% is funded in partnership with the Department for Transport and TfL is contributing around 16% of funding overall – and part of that is buying a new train,” he added.

The extension will divert Metropolitan line trains to serve the existing Watford Junction and Watford High Street stations, with two new stations to be created at Cassiobridge and Watford Vicarage Road. The existing Watford station will close after the new stations open.

Metropolitan Line Extension map

Metropolitan Line Extension map

Programme director Glenn Keelan told New Civil Engineer’s UK Rail conference that he was looking at an alternative procurement route on the £117M project in a bid to bring it back on budget. He said it was currently coming in around £14M over budget.

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