Tube bosses today promised more trains and fewer delays as they set out plans to modernise the District, Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines.
Key to the project is a new signalling system which is to be provided by Thales after London Underground cancelled its original contract with Bombardier last year citing concerns about the firm’s ability to deliver the contracted work.
In October it emerged LU had paid Bombardier £80m to end the contract, prompting criticism from the London Assembly’s Transport Committee which scrutinises LU and parent agency Transport for London.
Speaking on Tuesday, Tube boss Mike Brown said it had been right to protect taxpayer money by cancelling the contract even if that meant enduring some short term criticism.
He told MayorWatch that when the original contract was let, the signs from projects in two other cities using Bombardier’s system “were positive” but that when problems later occurred in both, he decided to “get out of if” before any more cash was committed.
The new system being provided by Thales is an “improved version” of one they’ve already installed on the Jubilee and Northern lines and will eventually allow more trains to run on each of the lines.
TfL says costs will be “in line with, or below, the cost per kilometre of modernising the Northern line signalling”.
However the overall project is expected to cost around 30% more than expected after surveys revealed more work was needed at some depots and TfL decided to do additional work at the “corners of the Circle line” to make sure the new system delivered the fastest possible speeds and trains per hour.
It’s expected that customers on all four lines will see the benefits by 2022
Much of the work will be carried out overnight and Brown said that while some weekend closures will be necessary, he was determined to keep these to “an absolute minimum” to avoid disrupting passengers.
Once the work is completed the Circle line is expected to join the weekend night Tube service which starts this September.
News of the upgrade has been welcomed by Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who said: “This is the sort of targeted investment that is essential for London’s transport system to service a rapidly expanding population”.
However Val Shawcross AM, Labour’s spokesperson on the London Assembly, said the need to find a new supplier meant passengers would wait an extra four years for the promised improvements.
Mrs Shawcross commented: “TfL have to be one hundred percent clear that they have ironed out all of the details on this deal, the absolute last thing anyone wants to see is a re-run of the expensive chaos caused when the last deal collapsed.”