London's Underground


201005101753.jpgLost in the election froth was the news that the Mayor has taken ownership of Tube Lines (and its debt) for a reported £310m. The system, which cost over £500m to set up had drawn scorn from across the political spectrum.

The take-over deal was apparently prepared several weeks ago, but could not be made public due to purdah.

TfL will now have control of all maintenance and upgrade work on the underground, meaning a more commuter and weekend-friendly programme. The Mayor has already promised fewer closures of the Jubilee Line over the weekend.

Boris Johnson has been unequivocal in his view of PPP:

"It wasted a colossal sum of money. The big winners now are London's travelling public and the big losers are the lawyers."

Christian Wolmar calls the PPP arrangements a ‘scandal’, and even Workers’ Liberty finds the time to praise the Mayor’s move:

“…it seems that the despised and discredited London Underground Public-Private Partnership (PPP) is dead… Hurrah.”

However, the article goes on to wonder if taking Tube Lines’ contracts in house is a prelude to turning the screw on Underground workers.

Surely not?

Well, Bob Crow isn’t taking the risk – as Annie Mole points out, he’s threatened a strike ballot on jobs and conditions for the new outfit.

It’s a bold move for a Conservative Mayor, against the backdrop of a General Election, to re-nationalise the remainder of the Underground. It’s also a move that should save Londoners and taxpayers money, whilst delivering a more coherent upgrade strategy across the network.

Is this enough for Boris Johnson to prove to naysayers that he has what it takes to make the tough decisions for London, or has he created just enough rope to hang himself? Only time will tell.

UPDATE 12/05: The Standard reports on delays to the Jubilee Line upgrade following the Tube Lines takeover.