Sabotage at the opera house

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The Independent Online
THE ROYAL Opera House has become the latest high-profile construction project in London to be the victim of sabotage, it was revealed yesterday.

Mystery saboteurs struck at the pounds 210m redevelopment at Covent Garden, damaging the scheme's fire protection system and forcing contractors to lose at least a day's building work.

The incident forced the site's closure and has sparked an internal investigation by the construction management firm Schal which said that tight security meant that it was unlikely to have been an outsider that carried out the vandalism.

The attack, to cabling that forms part of the fire safety equipment, comes after last month's suspected sabotage on the Jubilee Line extension to the London underground - a project already delayed - which cost an estimated pounds 100,000 of damage. Again this was damage to essential cables, although the attacks are not thought be related. The Jubilee Line extension, which is a key component for travelling to the Millennium Dome, is already bogged down by industrial disputes and wildcat strikes by electricians working on the project.

News of the Royal Opera House sabotage , which happened last week, features in today's issue of the trade magazine Building. The deputy editor, Giles Barrie, said time-sensitive high-profile projects were extremely vulnerable to industrial problems.

He said: "The closer we get to the deadline the more bargaining power workers, especially specialists like electricians who cannot be replaced, will have."

In August, Schal, which has not called in the police, admitted problems with the Royal Opera House's fly tower, blaming the contractor Bison. And in September 150 electricians walked out for two days, complaining that the 700 workers on the site had just eight functioning toilets and only a single canteen area which houses 72 men.