Rail Industry Focus


Fundamental problems with TfL telecoms

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Aug/Sept 2014

RTM’s David Stevenson looks at how the Independent Investment Programme Advisory Group would like to see Transport for London restructure its current telecommunications system.

Transport for London (TfL) is missing out on major opportunities to save “significant expenditure” on its annual telecoms bill, because its current system is “not fit for purpose”, the Independent Investment Programme Advisory Group (IIPAG) has revealed.

In its 2014 Annual Report, the watchdog notes that TfL is a major user of telecoms but its approach and management of these assets and services is “fragmented”.

TfL spends about £200m a year on telecoms, some of it on building its own network infrastructure, and some on buying services from others. It holds major contracts worth more than £500,000 with CityLink Telecommunications, Fujitsu and BT.

These services are utilised at all of TfL’s control centres; all of its railway, bus and tram stations and depots; at its railway signalling and electrical control locations; at its offices and data centres; at all of its traffic lights; congestion charging sites and cycle hire points; and on all of its buses, trams and trains.

IIPAG says TfL is missing “good opportunities for commercial synergy and the development of secondary income from telecommunications”. In particular, the report highlights problems including:

• A lack of accountability and strategic direction in managing telecoms assets;

• A lack of clarity about what is telecoms and what is information management (IM);

• A lack of overall network management and overview of performance and failures;

• Very limited flexibility and reduced resilience;

• An inconsistent approach to network security and uncertainty about what is delivered;

• An unknown, but certainly significant, extent of duplication of infrastructure and services;

• Duplication of design effort across programmes and lack of standardisation;

• Too many suppliers of similar things and a likelihood of suppliers with multiple contracts; and

• Advantages of scale and commercial synergy being poorly exploited.

A TfL spokesperson told RTM: “We support IIPAG's assessment that there are opportunities to make savings and deliver value for money through the management of telecommunications. We are actively investigating how this can best be delivered while continuing to ensure our day-to-day operational needs are met.”

IIPAG says that over the last year efforts have been made within IM to quantify the issues and within London Underground to develop a technology strategy. But the “fundamental lack of clarity” about the demarcation between the different disciplines of IM and telecoms has not yet been addressed.

The watchdog has recommended that TfL should tackle the problem in stages, the first being in Rail & Underground, which spend the most on telecoms, have the most telecoms engineers, and have the most critical telecoms assets and services.

IIPAG wants a radical simplification whereby TfL establishes a separate business unit to manage all telecoms – including asset management, technical and commercial strategy (including commercial exploitation) and the procurement of all TfL telecoms.

London Assembly transport committee chair Caroline Pidgeon said: “TfL needs to show real urgency in tackling what appears to be significant waste in telecoms. It seems that these savings are low-lying fruit, which TfL should have picked a long time ago.”

IIPAG says TfL is addressing the challenge of becoming more self-supporting following a cut in DfT funding. But the new funding dynamics, combined with increasing demand and the growth in the range of potential schemes, mean TfL has to demonstrate the priority and value of its investments are fully justified.

TfL said it is working hard to rationalise the business cases for its investments. But it also says that given the “legacy complexities” and the “mission critical nature” of the assets, a key principle will be to transition the least critical services first, irrespective of the business unit, and focus on more mission critical services once the approach has been embedded with confidence. “TfL would welcome the IIPAG's support in helping to achieve this,” it added.

Economic Operator

Contract Description


Earliest Expiry Date


Services for networks, telephony, project call-offs and ancillary services. This includes but is not limited to: incident and problem management; network monitoring, management and support of active LAN and interconnect components; and fully managed support of firewalls and their configuration.



8 Nov 2014


CityLink Telecommunications

Installation, operation and maintenance of London Underground transmission and radio network.


19 Nov 2019

BT Global Services

A five year rental (1 April 2013 to 31 March 2018) of private wire leased circuits – part of the communication system connecting to TfL’s central traffic monitoring systems and the on street traffic signal control equipment.

£10m – £25m

31 March 2018

BT Global Services

Rental (1 April 2013 to 31 March 2017) of private wire leased circuits for the connection system used to connect TfL’s CCTV system with the on-street CCTV cameras and the various control centres.

£1m – £5m

31 March 2017


Operate the Remote Monitoring system that connects to circa 2,800 traffic control equipment sites. The system uses legacy analogue PSTN lines to establish communications between the outstation and instation computers.

£1m – £5m

31 March 2015

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