Recriminations over the Tube PPP should have died along with the sale of Tube Lines to Transport for London (TfL), but after more than six months blame continues and improvements are hard to spot.
Hopes were high following the £310M buyout that by bringing to an end a very public row between contractor and its client, attention could focus on the work at hand -not least the complex Northern Line. Among the accusations flying around at the time were that Tube Lines’ structure was byzantine, with appalling bureaucracy. It was also accused of over-estimating the need for line closures.
London mayor Boris Johnson said the deal was “excellent news”.
“Freed from the perverse pressures of the Byzantine PPP structure, I am confident that London Underground and private contractors are more than capable of delivering the improvements we need, on time and on budget,” he said.
TfL’s first move was to shed 700 jobs in six months. Speaking to the London Assembly last week, TfL commissioner Peter Hendy said the job cuts were a vital part of its drive for efficiency. “We’re not wasting hundreds of people’s work on the PPP anymore,” he said.
“There are something like 700 jobs that have come out of both Tube Lines and London Underground, which were people by and large paid out of public funds in order to argue with each other - many of them on quite expensive salaries.”
Whether these efficiencies can lead to better working remain to be seen. In the immediate post-Metronet era there was similar optimism.
Speaking to NCE soon after Metronet was absorbed into LU in late 2009, LU capital programme director David Waboso - then line upgrades director - clearly saw benefits in having direct involvement and control.
“We’ve renegotiated some contracts and retendered the big signalling contract,” he said at the time. “Last year we hit every milestone. Before that, the schedule was slipping all over the place.”
“And I’ve nothing but praise for our suppliers,” he added. “When it was under Metronet it was like there was a cloud over us.”
But since then the Metronet legacy has re-emerged and delivery has slipped. Hendy admitted last week that difficulties on the Victoria Line before Christmas - labelled the new “misery line” by London Assembly member Joanne McCartney - stemmed from problems with the Metronet contract.
This included arrangements that meant new trains on the line went through only 8km of test runs before going into service, with potentially disastrous results. It has since emerged that hyper-sensitive sensors have led to train doors sometimes being left open in tunnels.
So those hoping for a smooth transition from Tube Lines’ to LU on the Northern Line may be disappointed. And the question remains, will LU still be blaming
Tube Lines’ legacy three years from now?