FOUR YEARS after the first London Underground assets were handed to the private sector, the largest union organising LU staff has called for the disastrous Public Private Partnership to be scrapped, if the capital is to have a world-class metro system ready in time for the 2012 London Olympics.
The union published a report on 31 December summarising a series of damning reports on the progress of the PPP, which it describes as a scheme with "failure built into its very fabric".
The RMT says that all the warnings that the PPP would turn out to be an expensive failure have come true, and concludes that the ‘infracos’ overseeing the tube upgrade are incapable of delivering the world-class transport system which London needs for the Olympics.
"By last summer," RMT general secretary Bob Crow said when at the report’s launch, "Metronet and Tube Lines had been handed more than £3.3 billion of public money and made nearly £300 million in profits, but by anyone’s standards they have spec-tacularly failed to deliver.
"The performance targets the privateers were set were five per cent lower than those expected when the Tube was maintained by LUL in the public sector, yet report after report has shown that the privateers have not even managed that.
"The privatisation and fragmentation of Tube maintenance have resulted in deterioration in service, missed targets, infra-structure failure, engineering overruns, an alarming increase in safety problems, and a massive increase in costs."
Crow pointed out that in contrast, after bringing maintenance back in-house "the national rail network has and is already reaping the benefits in increased efficiency and better safety."
He said time was rapidly running out "if we are to have a world-class Tube network in time for the Olympics. It is no longer an option for the government to allow the PPP to rumble on towards disaster."
"Today is the day for New Year’s resolutions, and one of the government’s must be to bring the necessary legislation forward to end the PPP and return the Tube’s infrastructure to London Underground".
Metronet shareholders face huge overrun bill
The London Underground has been plagued with problems including a four-day shutdown of the Northern Line in 2005 over safety concerns, rush-hour chaos and delays and speed restrictions since the start of the PPP.
A series of reports by the commons transport select committee and Transport for London (TfL) have condemned the shortcomings of the PPP infracos, the latest in June last year warning the situation is likely to get even worse.
In December the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) issued its first review of one of the two ‘infracos’, Metronet, warning that the company and its shareholders may have to pay for an expected £750m overrun in costs due to mismanage-ment and below-standard maintenance.
Metronet is owned by the conglomerate of giant engin-eering, construction and power companies Balfour Beatty, Atkins, Bombardier, EDF Energy and RWE Thames Water.
Metronet is attempting to pass on part of the bill to the publicly-owned London Underground, which says the government shoulder the cost rather than tube users. LU, along with the Greater London Authority and Transport for London, strongly resisted the imposition of the 30 year PPP contracts, now known to have been insisted upon by chancellor of the exchequer Gordon Brown.
London Underground’s managing director Tim O’Toole said the LU would not pass any of the cost overruns onto passengers if it was forced to pay some of the over-run costs, but warned that the tube network’s repair and overhaul programme would be affected LU had to share Metronet’s overrun costs. If this happened, he said "it would be a very serious indictment of the PPP structure".
The ORR’s chairman, Chris Bolt, will decide on who should saddle the costs at the end of January. It is certain, however, that Metronet shareholders will be facing a bill running into hundreds of millions.