London Transport chief Tunnicliffe says public-private partnership consortia will be given enough information to assess risk.
London Underground last week assured bidders for its £7bn upgrade of deep tube lines that they will be given more detailed information to allow them to assess all the risks involved in the project.

Contractors had earlier expressed concerns about the lack of detail surrounding the contracts and the degree of risk involved for successful bidders. At a conference at the British Library, Denis Tunnicliffe, chief executive of London Transport told more than 100 contractors and investors they would be "pleasantly surprised" by the amount of information provided.

He said: "We will only ask you to do things you can sensibly control; we will award you sensibly and endeavour to inspire you through the contract process. The amount of discovery you will have to do will be much less than you expected." He added: "All too often the public sector has fuelled the pockets of lawyers by debating the balance of contracts." LU managing director Derek Smith said that, from mid-September, the two infrastructure companies or "infracos" for the two sets of deep tube lines would be "shadow running" to ensure a smooth handover.

Smith said attempts were being made to get the underground's "highly unionised workforce on board", although Tunnicliffe later conceded that there was still "a lot of unhappiness" among LU's workforce.

Tunnicliffe also responded to rumours that Bechtel, which is likely to carry out works on the sub–surface lines for which Railtrack is sole bidder, could be stopped from bidding with a consortium that also includes Jarvis, Amey, Hyder and Halcrow if it was seen to have a stake in running Railtrack's operation.

"We want Railtrack to bring something more to the party than they have, and that may or may not involve Bechtel," he said. "We have an open mind; they [Bechtel] could be part of a consortium or could be subcontracted." Tunnicliffe added that LU had a "range of fall-back options" if the Railtrack bid fell through, saying: "We don't think there is any way they could have us over a barrel." Pre-qualification bids are due in by 19 August. By September, three of four consortia will be asked to bid for each infraco, by which time a deadline should be set for receipt of tenders.

At this stage, deputy prime minister John Prescott will decide whether or not to proceed with the deal. Opening the conference last week, Prescott made it clear that the £7bn plan for London's Tube lines would go ahead only if it represented value for money.

"Make no mistake; bids will have to represent best value when measured against our public sector comparator. I have always made it clear that we would only go ahead with the public-private partnership if it offered value for money," said Prescott.