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PPP on the Tube has failed as a vehicle to maintain and upgrade the system.

Following the collapse of Metronet, Transport for London has now bought Tube Lines back. Robert Wright wonders what shape future infrastructure work on the Underground will take

Public private passing

I

t will take months for the wider effect of this year’s General Election to manifest itself on the railways. But in one policy area, the London Underground public-private partnership, the election’s effect was

immediate. The PPP was killed on 7 May by its shareholders’ decision to sell Tube Lines, the only surviving contractor, to Transport for London, the public sector company employing underground drivers, station staff and signallers, for £310m.

The step was one of the first taken by

a public body after the end of the election- time ‘purdah’ preventing their taking significant decisions. The decision has been greeted

enthusiastically by both sides of the new governing coalition, who opposed the public-private partnership. The Liberal Democrats’ London Assembly Transport spokesman said the PPP had proved to be ‘a huge mistake for both the taxpayer and travellers’. The deal certainly bore the

hallmarks of Gordon Brown’s tenure as chancellor of the exchequer. It depended on arcanely complex arrangements to effect an apparently simple goal – to upgrade the underground without the overspending and drift that characterised the 1990s Jubilee Line extension. Yet a report published on 11 May by the

office of Chris Bolt, the arbiter of the PPP contracts, illustrates the future treatment that the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly Lines – where Tube Lines worked – can

PAGE 14 JUNE 2010

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