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Metronet slams LUL cash shortfall claims

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LONDON UNDERGROUND (LUL) managing director Tim O'Toole this week claimed that Tube contractor Metronet could run out of cash before it completes its track replacement programme.

But his claims were dismissed as nonsense by Metronet chairman Keith Clarke.

Metronet must renew 125km of track by 2010. So far it has renewed 7.7km, since signing the contract in 2003.

O'Toole said that as well as under-performing, Metronet was also overspending which could lead it to run out of money by 2010.

This could prompt its shareholders - Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Thames Water, Bombardier and Seeboard - to fork out more cash.

But Clarke, who is also chief executive of shareholder Atkins, said that while Metronet was overspending on some projects, it was underspending overall.

'We haven't spent enough in the fi rst two years, ' said Clarke adding that shareholders would not allow Metronet to get to the stage where more cash would be required.

He said that investing £80M in a new fl eet of engineering trains would help the company get back on target.

But O'Toole was sceptical about the cost effectiveness of Metronet's investment because three subcontractors will be involved in supplying and operating the trains. He claimed they would all be 'taking a 5% cut' when one firm could do all of the work itself.

Last week Metronet awarded GB Railfreight the contract to operate the new trains. It in turn is leasing them from rolling stock companies HSBC Rail and Porterbrook. It is also employing train operations firm TransPlant to advise it on using the trains underground.

But O'Toole said that Metronet could have leased the trains directly from engineering trains operator TransPlant.

Clarke again called O'Toole's comments 'nonsense'.

'Why would we do things ineffi ciently- We've gone for the most innovative and cost effective solution, ' he said.

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