PREFERRED BIDDERS for the London Underground upgrade work were this week pressing ahead with talks to finalise the £13bn private public partnership (PPP) despite the collapse last week of talks with transport commissioner Bob Kiley.
Tuberail and Metronet hope to sign the PPP contracts with London Underground (LUL) as quickly as possible, although start of work will depend on the outcome of a judicial review of the project, due later this month.
Deputy prime minister John Prescott asked Kiley to hold talks with preferred bidders in May (NCE 10 May).
He wanted Kiley to broker a compromise between the government's PPP plan and London mayor Ken Livingstone's proposals for a publicly financed upgrade.
Bidders said that they had been unable to reach agreement with Kiley because he wanted to take too much direct control of construction and maintenance programmes.
Kiley's demands that London Underground control the programme and prioritisation of maintenance on the Tube system did not represent PPP, said bidder Tuberail.
'PPP says that there has to be a transfer of risk, ' said a Tubelines spokeswoman. 'But we would have been measured on the performance of things over which we had no control.'
She added that, for example, Kiley wanted Tubelines to be responsible for signalling and track performance even though he wanted LUL to carry out routine night maintenance.
Financial backers would be put off by this approach as it would mean a reduction in the control the consortia had over the work, possibly affecting profits.
A Transport for London spokeswoman said Kiley was no longer speaking to any of the bidders, but preparing for a judicial review into the PPP on 23 July.
She said Kiley had recognised that by controlling maintenance the deal would be outside the scope of PPP. But she added that without this level of control Kiley was unable to guarantee that maintenance could be safely carried out. 'We couldn't guarantee that the bidders would actually do it, in any contractual sense, ' she said.