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Clarke under pressure to quit as Metronet is slammed by arbiter

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ATKINS CHIEF executive Keith Clarke is likely to face calls to quit his role as chairman of failing Tube contractor Metronet after an independent report found the PPP fi rm to be facing an overspend of £750M.

Independent PPP arbiter Chris Bolt cited a catalogue of failings within Metronet which have resulted in it spending twice as much as promised on rail renewals and four times as much on station upgrades (see analysis page 12).

Bolt makes clear that management failings at the highest level are the main cause, citing a lack of independent members on the board. He suggests that the consortium should be led by an individual independent of the shareholders.

He said that the company should have done more to avoid the suggestions of conflict of interest between Metronet and the five shareholders Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Bombardier EDF Energy and Thames Water.

'Given the amount of public money that it is receiving, the Arbiter would have expected that the operator would be able to demonstrate high standards in corporate governance and to avoid suggestions of conflict of interest at the shareholder level, ' he says.

'This might include, for example, having an independent non-executive chairman.' This could lead to calls for Clarke to be axed.

Atkins refused to comment on Clarke's position and said only that it 'notes' the conclusions of the report and that during the last year actions have been taken to address areas of less than satisfactory performance.

Metronet operates with a tied supply chain, with almost all of the £1bn spent so far handed down to its shareholders.

Atkins will be reporting its interim results for the six months ended 30 September 2006 today. Clarke's future at Metronet and the impact of the potential £750M bill on share price are likely to be the centre of attention.

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