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).