As might have been expected, the poisoned chalice of SSL resignalling (and, we assume, Piccadilly Line signalling as an add-on) has not attracted a great deal of interest from the signalling supply sector – out of the two possible organisations that could have bid, Siemens and Thales, only Thales have decided to submit a tender.

LU subsequently issued an OJEU notice at the beginning of the year asking for expressions of interest to supply a signalling system for the Sub-Surface Railway, one of the oldest and most complex sections of its underground network. LU says that Thales subsequently presented a solution that will meet the intricate operational requirements of the lines, which comprise 40% of the network.

From the mists of time, you might recall that, as far as the Piccadilly is concerned and assuming the logical decision is taken to roll out SELTRAC there as well, we’re back to where we were seven years ago:

LONDON Underground PPP contractor Tube Lines announced on January 29 that it had awarded Thales a ?160m contract extension covering the resignalling of the Piccadilly Line. Thales took over contracts to supply Seltrac signalling to the Jubilee and Northern lines when it acquired Alcatel-Lucent’s transport activities at the end of 2006.

That contract presumably went out of the window at some unspecified time during the wind down of PPP.  It’d be interesting to know when.  Anyway, keep an eye on that figure of 160m, in 2007 money.

Back to the Sub Surface Lines ATC – it’s worth refreshing our minds about the suspected timeline of the SSL this documented back in January:

  • Bombardier CityFlo650 scrapped – December 2013
  • ITT issued – February 2015
  • Shortlist – February 2016
  • Awarded to ? – December 2016
  • Full in service date – July 2024

One nice thing about only having one firm responding to tender is that the entire shortlist and award process can be rather shorter – the latest Operation Performance report suggests an accelerated timescale:

Following termination in December 2013 of the contract with Bombardier for the supply of the Automatic Train Control (ATC) signalling system and after a detailed pre-qualification process, Thales have been invited to the next level of the tendering process to let the ATC signalling supply contract for SUP. It is anticipated that a new contract will be awarded later this summer and will be a significant step towards ensuring we deliver our upgrade by 2018.

That’s running about 18 months ahead of where we thought, which pulls the full in service date, if they take the same amount of time to install Bombardier thought they would, back to about, er, the end of 2022, four years late.  However, Thales would be rolling on from the Northern Line project, which would have the benefit of an existing, well resourced and experienced team in place using a proven product, so you’d expect an accelerated timetable there, but can they really take four years out of it?

The downside is that you can’t get a guarantee of a competitive quote – Thales will not be going all out to put in a low cost deal, due to the reputational risk involved and the lack of any possibility of someone else getting the deal and chucking their tender investment down the drain.  This puts LU in an awkward spot – there’s no realistic way they can prove to anyone that they’ve got value for money on this deal, and since it’s now clear Bombardier’s problems started with an unsuitable product at an unrealistic price, the Thales sticker price is likely to be substantially higher, on the basis that they know LU know they’re the only people with a chance of saving their skin with a proven, working product.

What this does for TfL’s finances is interesting – curiously the latest Operational Performance report  (the final one for 2013-14) shows a 36m shortfall in efficiency savings due to banking savings from CityFlo650 deployment before they happened.  That sort of Enron accounting is what makes TfL’s public claims about value for money somewhat dubious.

The £36m downside in secured efficiencies against the Quarter 3 forecast is partially due to the removal of efficiencies forecast to be delivered through the Sub Surface Rail ATC contract, which is now in the process of being retendered. It is expected that proposals to deliver further efficiencies will be considered in 2014/15

We’ll be watching the size of the project finance bucket with interest in forthcoming PMPA documents, along with the target dates and if the Piccadilly is included in the main works or as a follow on and whether the existing Piccadilly Line trains will be SELTRAC-fitted for the period between 2018 and the target replacement date of 2025.

One final thing on the tube – the Bakerloo Line, as expected, is to have its trains life-extended to a mammoth 58 years, with a 31m programme of welding up the cracks in the underframes caused by the punishing curves on the line.  That bodes well for reliability in, oo, ten years time.

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