It was Brown's idea

When it comes to footing the bill for this ruinous enterprise, let’s not forget who got us into this

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So, tube repair and upgrade consortium Metronet is poised to go bust, having failed to get £551 million in extra money from Transport for London. I can’t say I’ll be sad to see it go.

The amount Metronet wanted in total (the £551m was just an interim demand) was nearly £1 billion, which is a proper scandal, amounting to a pound on every fare paid by every passenger in a year. Public Private Partnership arbiter, Chris Bolt, this week awarded them just £121m, but even this is too much.

Why was Metronet not sacked months ago? If it was up to me we wouldn’t pay them a penny. They should be removed from the tube now, their contract torn up and the services brought back in house.

And I’m not being harsh here. The company’s ‘investment’ in the tube (which in fact amounts to a juicy £70 million a month in public money) has gone bad, but it is entirely their own fault. As the arbiter points out, “if Metronet BCV had delivered in an efficient and economic way, its costs would have been lower than the baseline in the first four years of the contract.”

A pertinent charge laid at Metronet’s door by a recent London Assembly Transport Committee report is that of a complete inability to police, um, themselves. Extraordinarily, the sub-contracts from the PPP have all been awarded, in a distinctly uncompetitive process, to Metronet’s parent companies: Balfour Beatty, WS Atkins, Bombardier, EDF Energy and Thames Water.

The sub-contractors’ board members also sit on the board of Metronet, making it virtually impossible to bring sanctions against them when they failed to deliver the improvements on time. This is a company structure built for breakdown. The best thing that can happen is that the company goes to the wall, saving the taxpayer a fortune and maybe losing some corporations a week or two’s profit.

The list of Metronet’s failures goes on and on, and it’s not just the money: every failure represents hundreds of thousands of hours of misery for individual passengers trying to get to work and go about their lives.

By March last year only 14 of the promised 35 stations had been refurbished (all were late) and they completely failed to prepare the District Line for hot temperatures, causing chaos last summer.

Greens never wanted the PPP in the first place of course, and we have pledged in next May’s election to start moves to bring tube and rail services in London back into public administration.

And when it comes to footing the bill for this ruinous enterprise, let’s not forget who got us into this mess. It was Gordon Brown, who pushed through the PPP despite the opposition of the Mayor, TfL, the unions and almost everyone else in London. That even £121 million should come out of TfL’s budget to cover Metronet’s failings is wrong. The PPP was forced on us by the government and the money to cover its failure should come out of government, not London’s much-needed transport budget.

Sian Berry lives in Kentish Town and was previously a principal speaker and campaigns co-ordinator for the Green Party. She was also their London mayoral candidate in 2008. She works as a writer and is a founder of the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s
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