LONDON UNDERGROUND this week confirmed that it faced a funding crisis unless the government stepped in with additional cash to keep it going until planned public private partnership deals were signed.
The fears were raised as LUL published its PPP Progress Report - the long-awaited programme and plans for putting the maintenance and renewal of infrastructure and rolling stock under private control (see box).
The report shows that preferred bidders will not be confirmed until spring 2000 - the date control of the Tube was originally due to be handed over to London's new Mayor. Due diligence by the chosen contractors could take up to a further two years to complete before contracts are signed, leaving LUL with no interim funding.
'We are confident that the government will offer a solution,' said an LUL spokesman. 'We need additional funding to tide us over. We are already having to be extremely careful how we manage our spending. But it cannot be long before projects have to be deleted.'
When Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott announced the so-called 'third way' PPP plan for the Tube in March last year he allocated an extra £365M to LUL for vital works and to pay for the privatisation plans over two years (NCE 29 March 1998). As this period could now extend to as much as four years, LUL is having to cut back spending in case no more money is available.
The LUL spokesman said that vital work was already being put back. Most recently, he said, work to upgrade a travellator at Bank station had been delayed until September and was likely to be deleted from the renewal programme. Other projects, he added, were bound to follow.
But delays to the PPP programme and the lack of any achievable target date for implementation could also threaten the Government's plans to create a more integrated transport system for the capital under the new Transport for London executive.
Integrated transport expert Stephen Glaister of Imperial College London feared that the capital's transport plans could fall into disarray. He urged the government 'to put the PPP plans on one side and let the Mayor choose - he may decide to do something different'.
Locking London's new Mayor into a long contract with the private sector, he explained, would tie his hands. 'This will have the effect of disintegrating transport in London rather than making it work better,' he said.