By a tube worker
As we go to press it appears that Metronet, the London Underground “Infraco” is going into administration. The Public Private Partnership Arbiter has indicated that he will not agree to the company’s demand that London Underground pay for its incompetence, and LUL will “only” have to pay Metronet an additional £121 million rather than the £551 million it had asked for. That’s not a one-off, that’s the four-weekly Infrastructure Service Charge.
The prospect of administration presents immediate concerns for the workforce, the first of which is whether they will be paid.
The next issue is that the maintenance and improvement of the Tube has to continue, otherwise the Underground will stop. The only way to ensure this is to bring the Infraco contract directly back into a reintegrated London Underground, transferring all employees back to LUL.
You can be sure that Gordon Brown’s government, desperate not to admit the failure of their flagship “tunnelvision” PPP policy will be looking for an ‘under-table’ solution that keeps PPP but rids us of Metronet. Give it to TubeLines, maybe? Or how about Network Rail? Or perhaps they migh invent some new arms-length-independent-not-for-(much)-profit quango?!
Less than a fortnight after its shoddiness caused a Central Line train to derail, everyone knows that Metronet is crap. But the government — and probably LUL — will be keen to have us believe that the only problem is that Metronet is crap. The truth is that the entire PPP set-up is dismal, and is matching ours and the unions’ predictions that it would be a disaster for the Underground.
The other Infraco — TubeLines — must be rubbing their hands with glee. Many people seem to be labouring under the misconception that TubeLines are great, but really they only look great because Metronet are so supremely crap. Remember the Northern Line emergency brakes fiasco? The Piccadilly line cracked wheel sets? The derailments at Camden Town and Barons Court?! The cull of cleaners’ jobs? TubeLines.
Amongst all the furore about Metronet being crap, we should also remember that it is their management that is crap. Their workforce are skilled and hardworking people, doing their best under appalling management, even with insufficient kit to get the work done. Hey, perhaps if the workers ran the job, we wouldn’t be in this mess to start with.
The unions will all no doubt say the right thing: that PPP must be ended. But they should do more than just say so. They should mobilise to make it happen — industrial action to defend Metronet workers, plus mobilisation of all Tube workers and of the travelling public to demand an end to the PPP fiasco.