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TfL anger as Tube Lines plans “massive disruption”

A fresh row broke out this week between London Underground (LU) and its contractor Tube Lines, this time over weekend possessions for the Northern Line Upgrade.

Tube Lines chief executive Dean Finch has infuriated Transport for London (TfL) and London mayor Boris Johnson by claiming his firm needs 82 weekend closures to carry out 58km of track, signalling and station upgrades.

Tube Lines’ original proposal had involved a combination of just 46 weekend closures along with extended engineering hours.

But this week Finch told the London Assembly’s transport committee that the number of weekend closures would need to almost double after LU rejected its proposals for extended engineering hours.

Extended hours would see the contractor take possession of track from 11.30pm at night from Sunday to Thursday, with services beginning to reduce from 8.30pm. The approach has been used by LU on the Victoria Line Upgrade.

Stranded in central

However, LU only accepted Tube Lines’ proposals for extended engineering hours between Edgware and High Barnet to the north and Kennington to the south, rejecting the same for the section between Oval and Morden over fears that it would leave commuters stranded in central London.

In contrast the Victoria Line covers largely central London and alternative lines serve most destinations. A TfL spokesman said Johnson and TfL were both “furious” with Tube Lines’ proposal, branding it a “massive programme of disruption”.

LU interim managing director Richard Parry added that Tube Lines’ call for 82 closures came as a complete surprise. He told the committee that he was aware of only 65 requests for weekend closures.

Weekend closures are set to begin in late March and extended engineering hours in July. Both will continue until December 2011.

Waiting for approval

Finch said 22 closures had already been approved, but Parry argued that even these were not yet formalised.

“[Those 22 have] been through the formal system and we have acknowledged that there is no fundamental reason why that particular weekend can not accommodate a closure,” Parry said.

“However, we have also had a very clear message from Tube Lines that this process is under review - they do not believe that these closure applications that they’ve made are necessarily the final position.”

The new row will come as a blow to LU after director of line upgrades David Waboso last week stepped in to calm the dispute with its contractor over the cost of the Jubilee Line Upgrade (NCE last week).

Readers' comments (4)

  • I would have expected a more in depth coverage on this story, not like mainstream media. We all heard and read about this, but what we don't know is Tube lines' justification for additional closure. Is it increased scope? Is it health and safety related issues? Did tube line messed up their original programme?

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  • Behind the fact that LU and TubeLines are at each other, one wonders what is newsworthy here.

    There is presumably a certain more-or-less agreed amount of work, and it must be done either (1) during a certain number of weekday night service shutdowns of x duration, plus a certain number of weekend shutdowns, or (2) during a much larger number of weekend shutdowns because weeknight shutdowns cannot be accommodated.

    Having worked weeknight shutdowns, the "extended engineering hours" are critical because it takes a set amount of time to mobilise and set up for work, and to break down the work site for return to service in the morning - the actual "window" during which work can be done is quite small.

    It is hard to believe that this comes as a surprise to anyone at LU - is that all there is to the story?

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  • I presume it will take a change of Govt before we ever know how much inefficiency or "wastage" has occured due to the PPP process in LU.

    I have no idea what is really happening between LU and Tubelines (as a London tube user and taxpayer I fear that LU has not got heavyweights negotiating against some of the world's most powerful, hard commercial private sector contractors?) but it is surely in the public interest to have know how many billions have been wasted on the Metronet contracts that LU has taken in house.

    When the full details are given on this PPP contract it could well be a shocking tale where the quantum of lost taxpayers billions are in the order of magnitude we have recently seen in the failed banking system.

    The role and influence of civil engineers in this very sorry tale needs to be challenged.

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  • Having worked in the PPP environment, first during shadow running and then under the auspices of Bechtel and TubeLines it seems to me about time someone actually took the LUL bull by its horns; the 'assurance process' that arguably saw the demise of Metronet, is, as a principle, fine, in practice it is a convoluted process of man marking, pedantry, illogical demands and petty implementations that wastes significantly more money than it saves. It creates huge volumes of paperwork, and by sheer weight of signatures and approvals, actuall muddies the waters over whether something is safe from an engineering perspective. Bureacrocy is the norm, ludicrous demands (such as insisting on knowing where hoardings on platforms will go when still at feasibility stage and refusing to recognise the chronological illogic of such a demand) illumination and slip tests on different coloured tiles when the standard asks only that the 'floor' be tested, are just a few examples. Pointless insistence on retention of features of dubious heritage value when the standards demand the installation of containment and cable; station premises that are out of sight, above ceilings predominantly, have numerous un-stopped penetrations that have existed for years and are technically a breach of the Section 12 regulations, yet once the 'contractor' removes said ceiling, the penetrations are suddenly and hypocritically, the contractor's problem and must be rectified within laughable timescales. There was pedantry, to a degree that is almost childish, no trust, and a culture that sought only to place obstacles in the way of the programmed works and revelled in the difficulties such an approach caused. It's been a while for me but I doubt it's changed significantly. Metronet needed a Dean Finch, five years ago and I have no doubt Tubelines needs him now and I hope his stand is enforced at all management levels.
    Public, yes, private, yes, partnership no.

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