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SSR re-signalling programme poses ‘significant risk’ to London Underground

A major signalling renewal programme poses a significant risk to London Underground because it is slipping behind schedule, an independent report has said.

The report from the Transport for London (TfL) Independent Investment Programme Advisory Group (IIPAG) said that the re-procurement of the automatic train control (ATC) element of the Four Lines Modernisation (4LM) programme is slipping against the internal schedule.

IIPAG initially raised concerns about the programme when Thales was awarded the contract to carry it out in July 2015, saying that changes to the technical specifications should ideally have been further simplified and better structured.

The project was subject to delays before the contract was signed, with the budget increasing by 30% and the completion date being delayed from 2018 to 2022.

However, IIPAG said that since the project had begun, it has been “impressed” with how well Thales and London Underground are working together.

However, it noted that although the project is on track to meet its ready-for-service dates, the missing of internal dates so early “is a concern” and raised concerns about the lack of appropriate and effective subcontracting arrangements.

The report said: “The 4LM ATC is one of the most complex re-signalling projects ever undertaken on a Metro railway, and unavoidably includes some novel and unique features. The new team has got off to a good start, but it is a difficult programme and continues to represent a significant risk to London Underground.

“It is of fundamental importance that London Underground’s senior management team continues to support this programme as a high priority, by providing access to the railway and rolling stock, timely agreement of detailed requirements, suitable human resources and new operational processes, in order that it can be delivered in accordance with its budget and schedule.”

IIPAG also said that binding contracts are needed to support the collaborative relationship between London Underground, Thales and Bombardier as the ATC equipment is fitted on the new Bombardier S7 and S8 trains.

It recommended that London Underground begins establishing technical and operational interfaces for its relationship with Network Rail, which will be needed later in the project, early, in order to mitigate any risks.

It said it would recommend areas for improvement in reducing the overall cost of the project, especially around the costs of the telecommunications network being used.

Lessons must be learned for New Tube for London

IIPAG also said that lessons around problems with the project must be learned as TfL begins the New Tube for London project, which it said is currently behind on signalling procurement.

It added that TfL should consider re-signalling some lines, such as Piccadilly, Waterloo and City, first, and then awarding the contract for Central and Bakerloo later, in order to avoid technology becoming outdated, and using a wider pool of signalling suppliers.

TfL said: “IIPAG’s observations on Thales’ subcontracting arrangements are accepted. 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.”

In its report, IIPAG also said that the Northern Line extension remains in danger of going over budget.

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