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A serious bust-up over a massive refurbishment of London Tube stations has emerged after the project's client readvertised for architects shortly before Christmas.

One of three original practices contracted for the work, Pascall + Watson, has admitted it has serious misgivings over whether it would take on work from the client Tube Lines again.

And another, Ruddle Wilkinson, has revealed serious financial problems because of Tube Lines' lack of progress over the urgent revamp needed at 97 of the capital's underground stations.

Tube Lines took over the responsibility for refurbishing the stations in January 2003.

Its plan was to complete all of them in seven-and-a-half years.

To date, it has finished only 20.

To compound matters, shortly before Christmas the private company advertised a new 'framework agreement' for the work. This 'search' for new project partners required its three retained architects to reapply for the work.

But Pascall + Watson director Mike Haste expressed his scepticism towards the 'framework', adding that the amount of work his firm has received from Tube Lines has dwindled dramatically.

And he emphasised this reluctance to work with the client by listing a roll-call of complaints. The director said that Tube Lines was often unclear about what it wanted from its designs and had a 'poor record of payment'.

He said: 'After the first year they seriously curtailed the amount of work they were giving us. Something appears to be amiss.' Ruddle Wilkinson director John Durance con'rmed that the decision by Tube Lines to 'change the way it procured its station work' had directly affected his practice.

The architect claimed his 2005 turnover was 15 per cent less that it should have been.

Durance said: 'We probably won't be taking any more work from Tube Lines. We've lost a significant number of people in our rail team, which is half the size it was.' A spokesperson for Tube Lines con'rmed that it was 'looking at a new framework agreement'.

Acanthus LW Architects was the third architect originally working with Tube Lines on the programme.

It refused to comment.

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