Driverless London Underground offers 'poor value for money'


The prime minister's hopes for introducing driverless trains across London Underground have taken a hit after a leaked Transport for London (TfL) document suggests it would cost £7bn and represents 'poor value for money'.

The document states that the network-wide capital costs for GOA4 [complete automation] is over £7bn, and this investment only yields a 5% operating expenditure reduction relative to upfront costs.


'The net financial effect of the LU-wide conversion is negative showing a net cost of £5.6bn after accounting for revenue and OPEX savings,' the document states.

However, driverless trains offer 'reasonable value for money' when delivered as part of an integrated line and train upgrade, the report argues.

There are potentially significant customer benefits from improved safety, accessibility to the platform, platform environment and some reliability improvements.

Overall the case is not financially positive given the high capital costs and the value for money case is 'much weaker' than that of GOA1 [driver still in control and GOA2 [routine starting and stopping are automated].

It adds that none of the GOA4 conversions across any lines 'would cover their costs over the stated asset life'.

'Most of the stronger cases for GOA4 such as WandC, Central and Bakerloo, occur where asset renewal/line upgrades are planned with opportunity for cost efficiency full fleet/asset life and the potential for a small capacity increase.'

While value for money is 'significantly weakened if driverless conversion is delivered as part of a retro-fit of existing trains and infrastructure due to increased costs, risks and shorter remaining life of key assets'.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has previously called for driverless trains to be a condition of TfL's future funding and the leaked document comes as TfL and London mayor Sadiq Khan are involved in a bitter dispute about COVID support cash.

A £1.6bn bailout to maintain TfL services during the pandemic was agreed in May with conditions attached.

A two-week extension to the deal is due to run out this Saturday, and TfL has said it is under pressure from the Government to accept a range of terms including increasing fares and local council taxes.

TfL bosses have asked for a £5.7bn funding package to run services for the next 18 months.

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