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Tube upgrade likely to go ahead despite private funding fears


LONDON UNDERGROUND said this week that it was pressing ahead with plans for its privately financed Tube upgrade, despite fears that rail privatisation had contributed to the Ladbroke Grove tragedy.

LUL and bidders shortlisted for the project expressed optimism that the project would still go ahead. They insisted that the safety regime governing the project would differ from the one that applies to Railtrack.

Last week LUL announced that it had shortlisted five consortia to bid for the two deep Tube upgrade concessions. It has already agreed to negotiate with Railtrack over the award of the above ground and sub surface lines (see box).

Bidders for the deep Tube concessions will receive detailed invitations to tender next week and will be expected to put in bids by the spring.

On the Tube, LUL will award long term concessions under which private consortia will finance, upgrade and maintain the network. LUL will continue to operate signals and trains and will set safety standards, withholding payment if vital safety work is not done or if it considers the network to be unsafe. As a publicly funded body its commitment to safety is expected to override commercial factors.

This contrasts with the situation on the surface railways. Here, privatised track and signal operator Railtrack is responsible for monitoring safety through an internal Safety and Standards Directorate as well as financing and carrying out safety work.

Unlike the private groups bidding for the Tube, Railtrack faces no direct financial penalty for failing to carry out safety work and is driven by harder commercial considerations.

Andrew Bolton

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