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On track for delivering a world class underground network

Posted: 11 May 2010 | Keith Sibley, Stations Delivery Manager, Tube Lines | No comments yet

Over the last seven years the London Underground has been undergoing a major transformation to improve its performance, safety and reliability, thereby improving journeys for millions of passengers. One of the largest capital infrastructure projects in the world, Tube Lines is helping to deliver that vision through a 30 year Public Private Project (PPP) project with London Underground to upgrade the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines.

The PPP contracts Tube Lines Ltd. to a partnership with London Underground until 2032, with London Underground responsible for time­tabling, staffing and actual operation of the lines and Tube Lines having long-term responsibility for maintenance, renewal and replacement of assets. The extent of the upgrade planned for these assets is extensive, involving some 255 trains, 100 stations, 330 facilities locations, 320km of track and tunnels, 227 escalators, and 112 lifts. However, the multi-billion pound upgrade project also includes improvements to other parts of the network, including bridges, ventilation shafts, lighting, fire protection systems, staff facilities, the Public Address system, the CCTV system, passenger help points, passenger information systems via electronic Visual Information Display signs, right down to the pumps and drains. All of these assets are being maintained and/or upgraded by Tube Lines.

Over the last seven years the London Underground has been undergoing a major transformation to improve its performance, safety and reliability, thereby improving journeys for millions of passengers. One of the largest capital infrastructure projects in the world, Tube Lines is helping to deliver that vision through a 30 year Public Private Project (PPP) project with London Underground to upgrade the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines.The PPP contracts Tube Lines Ltd. to a partnership with London Underground until 2032, with London Underground responsible for time­tabling, staffing and actual operation of the lines and Tube Lines having long-term responsibility for maintenance, renewal and replacement of assets. The extent of the upgrade planned for these assets is extensive, involving some 255 trains, 100 stations, 330 facilities locations, 320km of track and tunnels, 227 escalators, and 112 lifts. However, the multi-billion pound upgrade project also includes improvements to other parts of the network, including bridges, ventilation shafts, lighting, fire protection systems, staff facilities, the Public Address system, the CCTV system, passenger help points, passenger information systems via electronic Visual Information Display signs, right down to the pumps and drains. All of these assets are being maintained and/or upgraded by Tube Lines.

Over the last seven years the London Underground has been undergoing a major transformation to improve its performance, safety and reliability, thereby improving journeys for millions of passengers. One of the largest capital infrastructure projects in the world, Tube Lines is helping to deliver that vision through a 30 year Public Private Project (PPP) project with London Underground to upgrade the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines.

The PPP contracts Tube Lines Ltd. to a partnership with London Underground until 2032, with London Underground responsible for time­tabling, staffing and actual operation of the lines and Tube Lines having long-term responsibility for maintenance, renewal and replacement of assets. The extent of the upgrade planned for these assets is extensive, involving some 255 trains, 100 stations, 330 facilities locations, 320km of track and tunnels, 227 escalators, and 112 lifts. However, the multi-billion pound upgrade project also includes improvements to other parts of the network, including bridges, ventilation shafts, lighting, fire protection systems, staff facilities, the Public Address system, the CCTV system, passenger help points, passenger information systems via electronic Visual Information Display signs, right down to the pumps and drains. All of these assets are being maintained and/or upgraded by Tube Lines.

Tube Lines took over the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines against a backdrop of decades of under-investment and at a time when the Tube seemed to be in decline. The signals and track were in desperate need of modernisation and the stations were worn out, unwelcoming and with no prospect of upgrade. Seven years later, and it’s a vastly different picture. Stations are now cleaner and safer, and millions of passengers are benefiting from much more accurate and timely information about their train journeys.

The investment required to upgrade the stations has been significant with a total annual turnover of nearly £140 million. In all, 96 stations along the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines will have been upgraded by June 2010 and, at the time of writing, Tube Lines is well placed to achieve this milestone with 85 stations so far completed. When you consider that some of these stations like Euston, Leicester Square, Green Park, and Waterloo are the busiest and largest on the network, this is a remarkable achievement. In some instances, extensive work was required to get stations ready to accommodate increased passenger numbers from the construction of major infrastructure in London – Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and Wembley Park stations being the most notable examples. At Wembley Park alone, Tube Lines successfully increased capacity by 70%, enabling an additional 15,000 passengers each hour to pass safely through the station on event days.

Launching the station upgrade programme

Each station is different in its own way, based on configuration, surface or underground, number of platforms, interchanges with other lines, and unique or heritage architecture. However, all stations should be a safe and secure environment, have clean and fresh decoration, provide necessary passenger information, and have updated control centres and facilities for station staff. In most cases, the station upgrade Refurbishment work covers the installation of an improved public address system, new CCTV, help points and platform train indicator displays which make stations safer and provide passengers with better information about their journeys. The Refurbishment projects also improve the physical and safety environment for passengers through the repair of the station structure and fabric, the improvement of seating and waiting area facilities, the repair and renewal of station signs and general redecoration.

The package of work for stations under­going an Enhanced Refurbishment additionally includes a more extensive renewal of floor, wall, ceiling and staircase finishes. Stations undergoing a complete Modernisation also receive a major upgrade which includes improvements to station lighting, floor and wall tiling, mechanical/electrical/fire protection systems, assistance for the mobility-impaired and work on staff accommodation. All the work is designed to last for at least 40 years, with periodic station refurbishments, before major upgrades need doing again.

The PPP contract upgrade requirements also included Station Accessibility Projects at six locations. Tube Lines has installed lifts at five stations, and a sixth has been reconfigured to provide one level access from drop-off to station platform for mobility impaired passengers. In view of the early success of these projects, London Underground has now assigned six additional step-free access projects to Tube Lines.

Soon after work began in January 2003, the real challenges of the project became clear. Construction had to take place in the traditional London Underground engineering hours, typically between 1am and 4.30am, when there are no passenger trains in service. The time required to bring all the materials and tools underground (sometimes without an escalator) to set up to do the work safely, and the time required to pack up and test and commission once finished, further limits the short remaining amount of productive time.

In addition, late running trains, engineering works on the track or de-icing trains often meant access was further delayed or not given at all. With only a limited window of work, planning was the key to success, including a contingency plan should an unforeseen event occur. This was particularly key for cable installation, where unknown obstacles or blockages could halt work causing further delays.

Introducing efficiencies to complete the upgrades

By the time 30 stations had been upgraded, the programme was on time but it became apparent that continuing with the same approach would lead to budgets being exceeded. It was obvious that changes were needed. The solution lay in another part of the Tube Lines business, the division responsible for track upgrades, which had been implementing replacement work on a construction managed basis, using direct hire labour. This was proving to be more cost effective than going through a main contractor, in the same way that the upgrade of Heathrow’s Terminal 4 underground station had been successfully completed by using trade contractors with Tube Lines as principle contractor.

So the construction managed delivery strategy used successfully by the Heathrow and track upgrade teams was used for the next tranche of 16 tube station upgrades. The work was tendered in trade packages, with 50-60% of the work programme contracted out on a labour only basis for items such as painting and decorating. The remainder was contracted out on a lump sum price basis to specialist contractors for works such as tiling and fire protection.

The new model has proved far better suited to the project. Working as principle contractor has given Tube Lines more control of a project, allowing it to deal directly with the work force on changed conditions and unforeseen events, keeping costs and time more closely controlled.

The change has had a significant impact on staff too. By giving complete control to Project Managers on site, Tube Lines has been able to manage performance with its own people now directly responsible for driving production and ensuring the quality of the end product.

Innovation has not just been important to the ‘coal face’ of the work however. In the early days, Tube Lines contracted out most of the design and had to provide London Underground with folders of documents which required over 100 signatures to assure its work. Tube Lines has developed the capacity to prepare most of the design in-house, and the design check assurance process is now phased over the life of the project with Tube Lines self-assuring the works. All documents are now held digitally with both parties having access to the documents at all times.

The snagging process, for any final alterations to works nearing completion, also presented frustrations. During phases one and two, Tube Lines used to begin the snagging process only once the work was nearly finished – with close out of snags sometimes taking extra time and resources. The process is now started early with pre-completion walkdowns well before Practical Completion, allowing snagging to be finished in as little as 8 to 12 weeks.

In a similar drive to improve efficiency, Tube Lines looked at standard activities such as site briefings at the start and close of a shift, bringing materials to site and the setting up and demobilisation of scaffolding to see where and how time was being spent and lost. The result was a standard nightly report template to enable project managers to report on what was achieved against plan, how many people were on site and document any events that slowed down progress.

As noted earlier, the limited time available through working on weekday evenings presented major challenges to the project – Tube Lines simply needed to find a way to work outside the traditional nightshift engineering hours. To combat this, Tube Lines in partnership with London Underground began appropriate use of extended night shift, dayshift, and weekend station closures.

Being able to work continuous 52 hour shifts on a weekend has had a dramatic impact to the programme by allowing much greater productivity and flexibility in how we carry out the work. For example, we were able to carry out noisy drilling, building work, and structural alterations during daylight hours thereby minimising disruption to residents who live near stations. Being able to close a station early in the late evening to extend the available night shift engineering hours has improved productivity, particularly for those activities with significant mobilisation and de-mobilisation requirements.

Introducing these changes to our work practices has had significant benefits with every single one of these stations being completed on time and on budget. The time it takes to complete a station upgrade has reduced by 30% from when we started in 2003, from an average of 12 months to 9 months. At the same time, the unit cost per square metre is now 50% less than that of the first ten stations we upgraded. These improvements mean that Londoner’s are benefiting from improvements to their stations much faster at an affordable cost.

Conclusion

The finish line is in sight and, as we near the completion of 96 stations by June 2010, attention is already turning to the second period of work covered under the PPP Contract. Major improvements to the Tube network are planned for 2010 – 2017 including the upgrade of around 81km of track, provision of a new fleet of trains for the Piccadilly line, and com­pletion of the upgrades to the Northern line and Piccadilly lines which will increase capacity by 20% and 28% respectively and reduce journey times by 18% and 22% respectively.

For the station upgrade programme, this period will see further refurbishment work undertaken at 38 stations on top of regular maintenance work at all stations along the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines. The station refurbishments will see improvements made to platforms to allow level access, two new train crew accommodations will be built and vital enabling works on Piccadilly line stations, like building new signalling equipment rooms, will be undertaken so that the line upgrade can proceed. The task ahead is no less challenging but one thing is for sure, we will continue to innovate and deliver vast improvements to stations that Londoners can rightly be proud of.

About the author

Keith Sibley
Keith has more than 35 years experience in delivering infra – structure projects in the public and private sectors. Prior to joining Tube Lines as Stations Delivery Manager, he held a number of posts in the design, construction, and contract management for major highway, rail, and power projects. He has a degree in Civil Engineering, with a Masters in Construction Management.

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