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Metronet is buying £80M worth of engineering trains over the next 10 years, to triple overground track renewals, discovers Ruby Kitching.

Tube contractor Metronet has been in the spotlight throughout 2005 for failing to meet targets on its Public Private Partnership contract with London Underground (LUL).

The contractor is responsible for two thirds of the Tube network and, according to LUL's most recent report, has renewed 41% less than was promised in its bid on the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines and 65% less than promised on the subsurface lines (NCE 4 August) - see box.

But, says Metronet chairman Keith Clarke, this is old news.

'We are behind and we admit that, but we also said that we'd improve performance. You don't turn around capital programmes on this scale in 10 minutes.' Metronet is 30 months into a seven and a half year contract in which it plans to spend £7bn upgrading and maintaining new trains, track, signalling and stations. Last month it signed an £80M deal for engineering trains which will triple the rate of overground track renewal - something which Clarke admits 'should, arguably, have been done earlier'.

The sentiment is echoed by LUL managing director Tim O'Toole, who hopes that 'big, shiny new yellow trains coming into town' will deliver long awaited results.

The eet of nine Class 66 diesel locomotives and up to 185 wagons will be ready for use in July 2006 and will allow the contractor to replace track at 50 locations on a weekend possession - compared to the previous best of just 15.

Trains can be up to 400m long, and this will help reduce time spent mobilising equipment, says Metronet project manager Mike Shears.

'The trains will be able to lift and replace entire sections of track up to 18m long in single operations, ' he says. They are multi-functional - capable of removing and replacing ballast, carrying out point and crossing renewal and transporting equipment for track renewal contractor Balfour Beatty Rail.

Purchasing the trains was part of Metronet's bid proposal. 'It was always our plan to increase track renewal in 2007 and 2008, so we've been procuring this contract for the last 24 months, ' says Shears.

Metronet is sharing deep tunnel engineering trains owned by fellow PPP contractor Tube Lines. As Metronet's new trains can only be used on overground sections of the network, it will still have to use Tube Lines' fleet for tunnel work.

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