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Stand and deliver

Cover story - Tough-talking Transport for London commissioner Peter Hendy is determined not to let consultants and contractors undermine the capital's multi-billion pound investment programme. Mark Hansford reports.

Later this month, Transport for London (TfL) will reveal its ambitious 20 year investment plan.

The plan, deemed vital to support the capital's expected economic and population growth, will have 'a lot of noughts on the back', says TfL commissioner Peter Hendy.

To meet the needs of a population expected to grow from 7.4M in 2004 to 8.3M in 2025 some serious transport investment is needed, including, in no particular order, Crossrail, rail schemes, light transit, bus projects, road user charging, road schemes and the completion of the Tube public private partnership (PPP).

And Hendy is determined that nothing is going to be allowed to prevent it - and by that he means no more construction industry cockups.

Hendy's biggest and continuing frustration is with the 30 year PPP deals being used to fund a £17bn upgrade of the Tube. He is especially frustrated by the Metronet consortium, which is responsible for the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria Lines, plus the District, Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City Lines.

Earlier this year he made clear his intentions to make the Metronet shareholders Atkins, Bombardier and Balfour Beatty fully aware of their responsibilities. He 'named and shamed' the three rms over Metronet's continued under performance (NCE 8 June).

This month Hendy further turned the screw, making the Balfour Beatty/Carillion consortium sweat over TfL's decision to award it the £363M East London Line contract because of Balfour Beatty's Metronet role.

'We wanted to make damn sure that giving it [Balfour Beatty] another massive contract wouldn't mean it would fuck up the massive contract it already has any more than it's already doing. Will it continue to nd it hard to win contracts with us?

Yes . ' Hendy's relentless pursuit of Metronet is not borne out of a particularly sadistic streak. It is simply this: the Tube PPP is vital for London and Londoners and must deliver a 25% increase in capacity that will only just meet demand.

The PPP is due for a seven and a half year review in 2009, and there is a very real risk that the government could refuse to fund the PPP after then if it feels TfL is failing to get its contractors to perform.

'Our concern is that if it gets behind now, it gives the government the excuse not to fund the second seven and a half year period, ' he says.

The PPP contracts are repriced every seven and a half years and there is no long-standing government commitment to fulfil the deal.

Tube Lines and Metronet are both about halfway through the first seven years of the Tube upgrade, which predominantly focuses on improving station facilities. Capacity improvements come in subsequent phases.

'Metronet has not delivered well on stations and our concern is if it can't paint Turnham Green station on time then how can we trust it with the resignalling of the Victoria Line?

'So if we really beat up Metronet it's because we're determined to make it deliver.

We want no excuses for the government to bail out.

The fear that the government could pull the plug on the PPP and on the Tube upgrade worries Hendy intensely.

This is why he is determined to squeeze better performances from Metronet and the other PPP contractor Tubelines, which is responsible for the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly Lines.

'Trains on the Northern Line often don't run because the signalling is clapped out.

'Trains on the Metropolitan Line - due to be replaced in 2012 - are the oldest underground trains in the world.

Harrow Hill signal box is circa 1947 and is unable to use two sets of points because parts have to be manufactured by a blacksmith. It sounds like a joke you tell someone in a pub.

'We know that the British construction industry can deliver.

Wembley Park station, the seventh car on the Jubilee Line, Western Ticket Hall at King's Cross - which was Metronet - were all successes.

'But I don't see why we can't ask it to do every project to time and on budget. On the Waterloo & City Line Metronet shot itself in the foot, ' he says.

The contractor promised to deliver the project in five months but delivered a week over the deadline.

'It even had a countdown clock on its website that it had to pull down when it realised it had blown it. All we're asking for is delivery.' Hendy also realises there is much that TfL must do internally to ensure that projects are delivered successfully.

'Nobody in our position would be daft enough to say we have everything in place. TfL was formed from organisations used to annual budgets and local government financing levels. We didn't inherit a stack load of good project managers. We use every form of contract known to man.' As well as reorganising his team, Hendy knows that he needs more project management skills in-house. Recent high-profile problems on TfL's Coulsdon bypass road tunnel would seem to bear this out (NCE 22 June).

'I am concerned about the strength of project management.

I don't like using as many contractors as we do to deliver our highway projects, ' he says.

'So, for example, I'm warning Atkins: don't expect us not to notice that you've screwed up managing a road contract if you are tendering for the DLR extension or the East London Line.' Hendy is also concerned at resources availability.

'Especially with the Olympics.

We are looking at expanding our supplier base and at advancing the capacity of some people doing work for us. We are also spending huge amounts of money on the mayor's behalf on 'sustainable procurement' - recruiting from London's population and promoting BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) businesses.

If projects are delivered well, Hendy is confident that the funding he needs will be secured.

'Quite a lot of the influence we have is a reflection of how well we do the job. Our currency with Ken (Livingstone, London Mayor) and with the government is pretty good right now because we fulfilled a lot of the Department for Transport's objectives - for example increasing bus patronage. The Department would not have met that target without us.

'I think we are able to demonstrate, in the third year of our five-year plan, the progress that we said we'd achieve. But there is more.

He is especially pleased that TfL has been able to secure extra cash to allow phases one and two of the East London Line upgrade to be rolled into one while introducing new rolling stock.

'City irport xpansion opened on time and on budget.

Tunnelling on the extension to Woolwich is a few days late, but nothing serious.

'The western extension of the congestion charge zone will be delivered. The Central London Low Emission Zone was ridiculed when first suggested but is proving to be exactly what people want. That will be delivered too.

'Ken's line is: if it's in my manifesto and I get elected, then that is the most important part [of consultation] done. And if you think he is impatient, so are we.'

Hendy on. . .

Congestion charging 'Criticism of congestion charging has been largely muted: we have less traffic. We are beginning to reallocate road space away from the private car. We've been able to introduce pedestrian phases into every set of traffic lights in London - pedestrianising Trafalgar Square simply couldn't have happened without congestion charging. There has been a 70% increase in cycling, partly thanks to the introduction of cycling phases in traffic lights. Okay, over three years there has been some slowing of traffic as a result, but that's why we've got casualties down. This is a city where things are demonstrably better.'

Crossrail 'Transport for London and the Mayor have, together, got the case accepted. Now it is a question of whether it can be funded. There is a good team led by Doug Oakervee making it deliverable.

'A station at Woolwich is obviously a good thing. But it depends on whether it can be paid for. The suggestion that it can be built for £185M is not supported by any detailed work. It sounds awfully cheap. What we must not do is insert, in the middle of an otherwise deliverable scheme, some bloody great piece that is not substantiated.'

Thameslink 'It's their (Network Rail's) railway. Our line is that 50% of national rail journeys start or finish in London. That argues for a very strong amount of rail investment to go there. If that sounds parochial, that's for your readers to decide.'

Road user charging 'We have prepared a Transport Innovation Fund submission to develop the congestion charge further. I think we're much better advised (than other regions). If Ken hadn't done congestion charging, it is hard to imagine everybody else coming out in favour of road user charging. You don't get there with woolly ideas. Our scheme is crude, but successful.'

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