Don't Blame Tube Lines, Boris

Article excerpt

I DO NOT share Boris Johnson's anger at Tube Lines over its Northern line upgrade plans.

The Underground's running hours mean any night-time engineering work has to be carried out in a narrow window between about 1am and 4.30am. Closing the line down one hour earlier, and thinning out the service from 8.30pm, will give engineers perhaps an extra 90 minutes each night to work on the track-- a sensible decision even if it means some inconvenience for passengers. The alternative to evening and weekend closures of shutting down the line for weeks on end would cause far more problems. A full Northern line replacement service would require 150 extra double-decker buses coming down Archway Road every hour at peak times.

Tube Lines has shown itself to be more professional than Metronet -- it has almost finished refurbishing its stations to an acceptable standard, whereas Metronet had only completed a small proportion of theirs by the time it folded. It did not set out to pass the buck on to its main contractors Thales when things started to go wrong on the Jubilee line upgrade. Indeed, the company has learned a lot from overrunning work on this project.

Meanwhile, Boris's rosy picture of London Underground's Victoria line upgrade is not entirely justified as there have been many evening and weekend closures and new trains are in depot because of a mechanical fault.

PPP is an expensive way to finance the upgrade of the Tube but it has secured a steady funding stream. Without it, work on the lines would be at the mercy of national political wrangling and non- essential work could face indefinite postponement, as has been the case with a number of Metronet's projects. …