LONDON Transport commissioner Peter Hendy last week led a team to theVenezuelan capital Caracas to negotiate a deal – initiated by President Hugo Chavez – to exchange expertise in dealing with traffic congestion for oilfor London buses.
The evening rush hour in Caracas is nightmarish, with vehicles jammed in giant motionless queues, while hawkers sell beer to frustrated motorists;motorcyclists mount pavements, endangering the lives of pedestrians and police look on indifferently.London is to receive a discount valued at £15 million a year for oil for its buses – which will be passed on as half-price tickets for people on income support.
In return, London Transport leaders will pass on their experience and expertise at improving public transport and introducing congestion charging in Caracas.Hendy said it was unclear whether Caracas would gain an equal value benefit: “It’s clearly not the case that the expertise we have is so unique that you could never get it anywhere else. But if you did get it somewhere else you’d have to pay for it, and it might be of uncertain provenance.”
Meanwhile Metronet, one of the private companies contracted to carry out a huge overhaul of London Underground’s network in a public-private partnership, is seeking a review of its performance as the costs are soaring far more than it expected.Metronet is estimated to be heading for a £750 million deficit on the deal that could climb to over £1 billion.Metronet argues that Transport for London should share the extra costs because it has had to carry out work not specified in the original contract.
But TfL, backed by London Mayor Ken Livingstone, has blamed the overspend on management incompetence at Metronet.A TfL spokesperson said: “Evidently the extraordinary review process must not divert Metronet and their shareholders from the need to radically improve the company’s performance. The promised improvements to Tube track,trains and signals must be delivered on time and on budget.”