Legal services supplied to Transport for London (TfL) and the Greater London Authority (GLA) have been called into question by an internal audit report, an Assembly Member has claimed.
The news came as TfL commissioner, Mike Brown, received a grilling from the London Assembly's transport chair, Val Shawcross AM, over a re-signalling project on sub-surface London Underground lines that has been dogged by failures and delays costing hundreds of millions of pounds.
TfL previously contracted Bombardier to re-signal the Metropolitan, Circle, District and Hammersmith and City lines but terminated the agreement in 2013.
This year Thales received a contract for the work, although the price tag rose from the original Bombardier price of £354m to £760m.
Ms Shawcross said she was shocked that TfL had to buy its way out of a contract ‘where the contractor had so palpably failed’ and asked if there was something wrong with the legal services TfL used to draw up contracts.
She revealed: ‘The internal audit report that’s just going to the audit panel on legal services across the GLA group is not very complimentary about the performance of the legal service, so it might be something that does need to be looked at.’
Mr Brown said making provisions for all eventualities in contracts would result in contractors charging more to cover those risks. Terminating Bombardier’s contract had avoided two or three years of ‘legal toing and froing’.
He also said the project on the has passed a milestone at a test facility, revealing ‘exclusively’ to the London Assembly’s transport committee that the new signalling had now operated one of the new sub-surface trains on TfL’s test track.
Committee chair Val Shawcross asked him why the committee should believe his assurance the re-signalling would end by 2023, given he had told the committee in June 2014 that the original 2018 deadline could still be achieved.
Mr Brown replied: ‘Because … I now know this works, because I’ve seen this train moving on the test track with the driver holding their hands up because the signalling is driving the train.’
In June 2014, TfL had not awarded the new contract and had not realised how protracted the negotiations would be, he said.
He said re-signalling would deliver an immediate reliability improvement on the Hammersmith branch ‘as early as 2019’. Other sections would benefit as the project moved on.