LONDON UNDERGROUND (LU) managers last week clashed with train union officials after choosing the Metronet consortium as preferred bidder for two of the three Tube upgrade contracts.
Union concern centred on Metronet member Balfour Beatty's connection to the Hatfield train crash in which four people died last year (NCE 26 October 2000).
Balfour Beatty was responsible for maintaining the section of track which failed and caused the crash.
The confrontation took place at a meeting of LU stakeholders, which coincided with LU's announcement that Metronet was its preferred bidder to upgrade the network's subsurface Metropolitan, Circle and District lines.
The meeting was part of LU's effort to win Health & Safety Executive approval for the safety case which will cover the £13bn privately financed upgrade of the Tube. It included passengers representatives, union officials and London politicians.
Balfour Beatty's partners in Metronet are WS Atkins, Thames Water, Seeboard and Adtranz.
It is already preferred bidder for the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines contract.
RMT official Bobby Law questioned the decision to award a second contract to Metronet, given Balfour Beatty's safety record.
But LU safety director Mike Strzelecki insisted: 'You can't villify Balfour Beatty just because it happens to be involved in an accident on the national rail network, when formal investigations and inquiries are not finished.'
Strzelecki pointed to the contractor's involvement in the 'very difficult and challenging' Westminster station contract on the Jubilee Line Exension, which he claimed had no fatal accidents and an accident record 10 times better than the UK average.
'Any company can make safety related mistakes, ' he added. 'You can't guarantee absolute safety.'
But union officials also questioned Metronet's ability to handle the two major Tube contracts. Tube managers argued that Metronet planned to subcontract work if it lacked the in-house capacity to handle all of the work on the two contracts.