Rail Industry Focus

05.09.16

New Tube for London: learning from past mistakes

Source: RTM Aug/Sep 16

Transport for London (TfL) has committed to learn from the mistakes made in the Four Lines Modernisation Automatic Control (4LM ATC) programme in order to improve its signalling procurement for New Tube for London – but major issues have already started to surface. RTM’s Luana Salles reports.

TfL has promised to apply crucial lessons from the failures of its 4LM ATC scheme to the New Tube for London signalling procurement following the latest evaluation from the Independent Investment Programme Advisory Group (IIPAG). 

In its sixth annual report into TfL’s investment programme, IIPAG highlighted a series of concerns with both the 4LM ATC scheme and the New Tube for London project, even though the latter is still at a considerably early stage – with the specification for new rolling stock only put to the market earlier this year. 

Issues with Thales and subcontracting 

With 4LM, IIPAG was worried about a number of issues in relation to Thales, the company contracted to supply the project’s signalling system – specifically around its progress and subcontracting. It also pointed out concerns with Bombardier’s fit-out work and London Underground’s (LU’s) interfaces with Network Rail – the latter being symptomatic of a larger problem across TfL also identified in other schemes. 

“There has been significant slippage against some of the internal schedule dates. In particular, Thales’ installation work has been delayed,” the IIPAG report said. “Whilst the delays have been absorbed in schedule float, and the published ready-for-service dates are unchanged, the loss of this scale of schedule float so early in the programme is a concern.” 

It also raised some concerns relating to the establishment of appropriate and effective subcontracting arrangements which, although a matter for Thales, affect LU directly because it reimburses payments Thales makes to subcontractors. “In addition, delays in finalising subcontract arrangements affect the programme. LU has been collaborating well with Thales after the main contract was concluded to improve transparency and to help them to resolve these issues,” the report added. 

“However, IIPAG notes that the need for LU to be concerned with subcontracting arrangements under Target Cost contracts should be more fully recognised at the pre-contract phase for other projects.” 

The group recognised that 4LM ATC is “one of the most complex re-signalling projects ever undertaken” on a metro railway, and because of this “unavoidably includes some novel and unique features”. But while the new team has got off to a good start, the difficult programme “continues to represent a significant risk to LU”. 

TfL accepted the observations and claimed the programme team has extended its collaborative efforts to ensure LU can feed its extensive railway experience into the Thales subcontracting arrangements. 

“With hindsight, more could have been done with Thales to ensure the best fit between the main contract and the subcontractors at the pre-contract phase – this crucial lesson will be embedded in the New Tube for London signalling procurement,” admitted TfL. 

Delayed signalling procurement 

Concerns were also underlined with New Tube for London, especially to make sure the mistakes made with 4LM ATC are not repeated. The headline issues were the limited pool of signalling suppliers and the relative timing of the signalling procurement. 

“The rolling stock procurement is underway but the signalling is some way behind with a number of unresolved issues,” IIPAG said. “An efficient outcome will be delivered only if the signalling strategy and scope are at a further advanced level before the train design commences. IIPAG believes that these key elements could and should have been co-ordinated better.” 

The scope of the proposed signalling and telecommunications elements was also questioned. Since technology is advancing quickly – with improved functionality becoming more commonplace – IIPAG did not agree with the need to commit to a single supplier and technology to be used to re-signal the remaining LU lines for the next 20 years. “A smaller scheme such as the re-signalling of the Piccadilly and Waterloo & City lines might be more appropriate at this stage, with the contract for the Central and Bakerloo lines following at a later stage,” said the group. 

But TfL was less receptive to these observations, arguing that its signalling procurement packaging strategy was designed to maximise market appetite, and said that it had not committed to a single supplier. “The proposed approach would result in a firm commitment to a single supplier and technology for the Piccadilly Line only, with options for the other lines to be exercised in the future,” the organisation said. “This approach safeguards LU against significant changes or improvements in technology.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com 

Comments

Andrew Gwilt   07/09/2016 at 17:06

Well new tube rolling stocks are to be built for Bakerloo, Piccadilly, Central and Waterloo & City from 2020's.

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