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London Underground Upgrade, England Overview

Scope of Work Planning, engineering, procurement, and construction, maintenance
Value $7.5 billion
Schedule 2003–2010
Business Infrastructure

A public-private partnership between the London Underground and Tube Lines, operated by a Bechtel consortium, worked to upgrade the Jubilee, Northern, and Piccadilly lines of the city's historic subway system. The three lines accounted for nearly 40 percent of the Underground's total length.

All three lines are storied sections of the Underground, the world's first subway system, which began serving Londoners 150 years ago.  The modernization of the Jubilee, Northern, and Piccadilly lines included installing a new signaling system and updating or upgrading:

  • 251 trains
  • 100 stations
  • 187 miles (about 300 kilometers) of track
  • 2,395 bridges and other structures, 227 escalators
  • 71 lifts​
The renovation and upgrade work on the three Underground lines set the stage for development and redevelopment, and created a rail connection to the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport.

The work was completed under budget and more than two months ahead of schedule.

Inside the project

The Jubilee Line Extension was one of the UK's biggest construction projects and the largest addition to the London Underground in more than 25 years. But it was severely behind schedule. Problems with tunnelling and signaling plagued the effort. Permitting and inspections also were lagging woefully.

Bechtel was hired to provide a fast-track push to completion. Working with partners, we finished the extension and operational commissioning in just 14 months, soon enough for the line to safely carry revelers to London's millennium celebration.
london underground

The 10-mile- (16-kilometer) -long extension created a direct link between London's West End and the outer reaches of the East End and provided a direct stimulus to the development and redevelopment of areas previously poorly served by public transportation.

Complex conditions

The Jubilee Line is the only line on the London Underground to connect with all other lines. The $5.3 billion extension has 11 stations—6 new and 5 substantially enlarged or rebuilt. 

Construction involved: 

  • Tunneling at depths of up to 100 feet (some 30 meters)
  • Rebuilding the historic Westminster Station next to the Houses of Parliament
  • Four crossings under the Thames
  • Archeological investigations at three historic station sites

The Bechtel consortium worked hand in glove with London Underground to design and build infrastructure for three Underground rail lines--including trains, signaling, tracks, bridges, drainage, escalators, and lifts.

workers on the London UndergroundTo keep the Underground running all the while, contractors and crews performed their work during a small window of opportunity when the trains stopped running—between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.—which required extraordinary preparation and planning.

A new signaling system made perhaps the most dramatic difference--providing better service and a higher level of reliability. The system automatically controls the acceleration and braking of the train, maximizing speed and boosting frequency.

Public-private partnership

A public-private partnership successfully carried out the Jubilee, Northern, and Piccadilly work. A special-purpose company called Tube Lines--composed of Bechtel Enterprises and European firms Jarvis and Amey—handled the upgrades, along with operations and maintenance. London Underground, the government transit authority, retained control of day-to-day operations as well as the "social" aspects, including selling tickets and setting both fares and schedules.

Funding for the project was facilitated by Bechtel Enterprises, our financing and development arm, which helped Tube Lines arrange a financial package that involved 29 banks, then also assisted with a restructuring that converted the package to a successful bond issue.

It was a complicated deal, four years in the making. But it was worth the effort. We were able to bring in private-sector funding instead of the government's seeking approval for billions of pounds in new taxes.