TRANSPORT SECRETARY Stephen Byers this week announced proposed changes to Public Private Partnership contracts for London's Tube which he claimed would give London Underground (LUL) more control over safety.
Bidders for the £13bn upgrade were left considering their positions after Byers agreed to allow LUL to appoint a 'partnership' director to the board of each private infrastructure company (Infraco).
The new directors are expected to oversee and approve all work plans and have open access to the Infracos' commercial paperwork.
The proposals will also give LUL safety step-in rights, to direct Infracos to take immediate action on health and safety grounds even if the company is not in breach of its contractual obligations.
Preferred bidder for the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines Tubelines said the new plans initially seemed 'broadly acceptable' but detailed analysis was still taking place.
Tubelines hinted that some parts of the new proposal just re-iterated details that had already been accounted for in the original contracts.
'Safety is being overplayed, ' said a Tubelines spokeswoman, adding that LUL had always had step-in rights with regard to safety issues. 'LUL already tells us what the work plan is, ' she added.
A spokeswoman for London Transport commissioner Bob Kiley, a long time campaigner for greater safety controls over the private companies, also questioned the announcements.
'We don't think they're particularly new, ' she said, adding: 'They still rely on the underground maintenance standards regime that Parsons Brinckerhoff said wasn't up to the job.'