Contractors face continued uncertainty about the work available on the London Underground network as an upgrade of the Piccadilly line looks set to be put back by delays on the Northern line works.
London Underground managing director Mike Brown told the London Assembly’s transport committee last week that the body would be “really stretched” to complete the Northern line project by 2012 and hence the Piccadilly line work by 2014.
Maintenance and upgrade work on these lines, as well as on the Jubilee line, is currently carried out by public private partnership contractor Tube Lines.
But Transport for London is set to assume control of the work after agreeing to buy out the shareholders in a £310 million deal.
Mr Brown said the deal was 90 per cent certain to go ahead, with TfL subsidiary London Underground poised to take the helm on 30 June.
He said there would be an “inevitable hangover” given the slippage in timetables of the Jubilee and Northern line upgrades during Tube Lines’ tenure.
No new completion dates have been set but LU will carry out a full review of the upgrades - which consist of new signalling systems and track replacement - when it takes over.
When asked by the committee whether the Northern line upgrade would be complete in time for the 2012 Olympics, Mr Brown said it was a “huge ask”.
He added: “In any event, that is a very demanding timetable. Because the Jubilee line has been so late, the Northern line is 50 per cent behind where it should have been at this moment in time.”
Mr Brown added that LU would consider combining works on the Piccadilly line upgrade, which is yet to start, and sections of the network that it shares with the District and Metropolitan lines.
Finishing the Jubilee line upgrade will be TfL’s first objective but Mr Brown expressed his doubts over the scheduled completion date of October.
He said the upgrades were “imperative” to London but would not be drawn on how the former PPP upgrade and maintenance works would now be funded.
“Regardless of any structure, funding changes would have to be made in any event, whether we were in the PPP world or non-PPP world.”
He added that his main objective would be to reduce early evening closures required for future works and to keep weekend closures to a bare minimum, suggesting TfL would look to block closures of the Northern line.
TfL’s buyout of Tube Lines’ shareholders - Amey and Bechtel - will see Amey stay on to carry out day-to-day maintenance of the three lines while Bechtel will be phased out of its role carrying out capital improvement works.