Tube Lines boss hails progress, and wants to hear your views

BY TERRY MORGAN Terry Morgan, chief executive of Tube Lines, invites you to read this article and respond via Almost everyone in London has an opinion on the Tube; a favourite line, a pet hate or an ide

Terry Morgan, chief executive of Tube Lines, invites you to read this article and respond via

Almost everyone in London has an opinion on the Tube; a favourite line, a pet hate or an idea for improvement. Those who speak about railways cannot help using superlatives. The London Underground is certainly the oldest underground railway, possibly the most written-about and perhaps one of the most emotive.

Passenger use has grown massively, with 242 million journeys made in 2007. With passenger numbers predicted to rise by up to 25 per cent in the next decade, maintaining and upgrading the network will be central to keeping London moving.

We at Tube Lines assumed control of the maintenance and upgrade of the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines in 2003, and investment in the Tube has since tripled. But as we enter our sixth year of operation, it is incumbent upon us to show how we are moving towards improved daily services and finding solutions for long-standing issues.

For passengers, our role is primarily to ensure that the network is as reliable, convenient and pleasant to use as possible, and it is by optimising the quality and longevity of track, signalling and station infrastructure that we are making tangible progress.

Across all three lines, we are working hard to reduce what we call lost customer hours through disruption. These have fallen by around 40 per cent since 2003, and though we aren't there yet, we are confident of seeing gradual yet constant decreases in delays. Altogether, we have renewed nearly 100km of track, and the recently completed weekend closure programme on the Northern line allowed over 10km to be upgraded three years earlier than scheduled.

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In each of these weekends, our engineers greatly accelerated the pace of improvement work; making what would have taken 15 normal engineering night shifts to complete, achievable in one 52-hour weekend. The project was vital in bringing the infrastructure up to a stable level and we believe that both this, and the recently signed performance agreement with Northern line fleet maintainer Alstom will lead to fewer delays on the line.

Among other benefits, this deal aligns the companies' performance targets. While this may sound like corporate speak it will in fact strengthen our ability to reduce the impact of faults, and give us involvement in the day-to-day management of the Northern line fleet. This is intended to bring about the same reliability improvements seen on the Jubilee and Piccadilly lines, and to this effect we have renewed Alstom's contract to maintain the Jubilee line fleet; a partnership that last year allowed us to add an extra carriage to each of its trains within budget and on time.

We are also committed to upgrading 97 stations within the first quarter of our 30-year contract with London Underground, and are over half way there. We are nearing completion of the upgrade to Highgate station, with Hampstead refurbished in 2007 and West Hampstead in 2005. This includes help points, comprehensive CCTV and safety facilities, and easy access for customers.

All of this is taking place within the Tube PPP framework, and we feel strongly that we are demonstrating its value in removing financial risk from the taxpayer, ensuring that long-term investments are made, and projects delivered.

A spirit of ingenuity and innovation has flourished. A team of our engineers has developed a permanent current rail indicator device (P-CRID) - a safety-enhancing trackside fixture which lets engineers performing nightly improvement works know when the current is turned off. Additionally, one of our technical officers has invented a handheld device which can identify faults that cause signal failures before they occur.

This innovation isn't just limited to the typical activities associated with rail maintenance. Many readers of this newspaper will have seen images of the largest green roof in London, which sits atop the Northern line control centre site. We recognise the far-reaching effects of everything we do, and appreciate the constructive dialogue we had with residents to ensure that a working building - vital to the Northern line's future - fits seamlessly into an attractive local environment.

Renewing the Tube is a long-term, pan-London affair. Yet every project we undertake must have a real local focus, and we make every effort to perform our work with as little inconvenience to passengers and neighbours as the infrastructure allows.

There is some way to go to provide all Northern, Jubilee and Piccadilly line passengers with uniformly reliable railways, but we do sense definite movement towards providing the Tube you deserve.