TFL’s journey towards a new era

Posted on 28 Oct 2013 by The Manufacturer

The London Underground is undergoing a heavy transformation. Just ask David Waboso, the man charged with the task of overseeing the upgrades. The director for capital programmes talks to The Manufacturer about the driving factors behind such large scale expansion and the new technologies that will help shape the project.

Are issues such as population increases factored into the plans to increase capacity and expand stations?

Absolutely. The majority of our investment programme is about increasing capacity on London Underground’s network. The population of London is expected to grow to nine million by 2018 and over ten million by 2031 and customer demand for the Tube continues to increase year and year. We’ve already seen record growth and numbers of over four million customers a day on some days.

David Waboso, London Underground's capital programmes director. Image courtesy of

We’re also increasing capacity on our lines – new signalling systems allow us to run trains faster and new trains provide more space for customers. Our upgrades of the Jubilee, Victoria, Northern and Sub-Surface (District, Hammersmith & City, Circle and Metropolitan) lines will provide on average around 30% more capacity on our network.

Even our track renewal programme has capacity in mind. For example, we’re removing historical pinch points and speed restrictions to ensure we can get the most out of our existing infrastructure. When planning our improvement works, we use extensive modelling on passenger flows, using predicted passenger numbers, to ensure our system can cope well into the future.

Has the emergence of 3D technology and CAD software had a significant impact on the renewal plan’s design processes?

The emergence of 3D/CAD technology, along with a focus on application of collaborative information processes to a consistent standard, is providing a vehicle for greater integration of the respective design disciplines. We use 3D/CAD technology extensively and complex station upgrade schemes at Victoria (VSU), Tottenham Court Road, Bond Street and Bank have already invested significantly in BIM. Some, such as VSU, have been recognised by industry as ‘early adopter’ projects.  Properly structured outputs from this can provide the necessary feeds to BIM in the subsequent maintain phase of the asset lifecycle. Overarching the technological development of course is the need for efficiency. This drive for BIM maturity is not only relevant to construction and delivery works, but also to our wider business as it links directly to the drive for whole life cost management of assets and is referenced in PAS55 Certification.

What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing the London Underground’s upgrades and how are you planning to overcome these?

Delivering huge schemes onto the world’s oldest – and one of the busiest – metros is our biggest challenge. We have a capital programme worth £1.3bn annually that we are trying to deliver as efficiently as possible. At the same time, we have upwards of four million customers relying on our network to travel around the Capital each day. Keeping London moving while we carry out these improvement works is a huge challenge. We are also replacing infrastructure that dates back decades, and in many cases trying to integrate modern systems with old. But we’re doing a number of things to overcome these challenges. Everything starts with safety – keeping our workforce, sites and systems safe. We’re getting things right the first time. We’re approaching 100% delivery of milestones and delivering unit costs and forecasting accurately. We’re minimising disruption to customers through fewer closures, and obtaining Asia-Pacific levels of reliability and performance from our new systems.

Is there a greater level of engineering difficulty dependent on the age of an existing station, as opposed to implementing changes to more modernised ones?

Yes. London Underground is 150 years old and many of these stations were built with materials we wouldn’t use today, that are not totally compliant with modern standards. Often half the work we do is to simply get the station up to standard. Sometimes it’s like opening Pandora’s box – we often don’t know what we’ll find when we start work on a new site! There was also no consideration for space when these stations were originally built. So it’s often very difficult to get materials in and out. Bank station is an interesting example of this. The existing Bank-Monument complex is one of the biggest and most complicated underground stations in the world. When we start construction on the station, we’ll be working within and underneath a conservation area that includes nationally significant and well-known buildings, the headquarters of major corporations and internationally known churches. We’ve had to be quite clever in designing the scheme to work around this.

How many of LU’s suppliers are UK-based, and additionally, how much does it generate for UK manufacturing economy?

Investment in the Tube created almost 1300 jobs in London in 2012/13 and is predicted to create close to 3500 jobs from 2013-16. But our investment programme not only supports jobs in London, but also across the UK. Our supply chain supported 41,000 jobs in 2012/13 outside London. 62 per cent of our procurement spend went to suppliers outside of London – more people work in our supply chain outside of London than we employ directly in London.