I have been hearing reports that the PPP Arbiter for the Tube, Chris Bolt, is minded to rule much nearer TfL’s estimate of the cost of the next 7.5 year period than the amount Tube Lines is seeking. If that is the case, then probably Tube Lines would decide that it is not worth the hassle and would walk away from the contract, which would spell the end of the PPP.
Now today, The Sunday Telegraph is reporting that TfL is drawing up contingency plans to take over the contract. Certainly it seems that given the huge dispute over the Jubilee Line and the problems that Tube Lines would have in raising any cash, the PPP’s days are numbered.
The delay over the Jubilee Line resignalling has tested TfL’s patience, culminating in Boris Johnson sending a furious letter to the company last week which could be read as a prelude to TfL actively trying to withdraw. What an irony it would be if the Jubilee Line were the catalyst for the collapse since it was precisely the overspending on the Jubilee Line Extension, a mere peccadillo of around £1bn, which prompted Gordon Brown and the Treasury to push through the PPP rather than simply giving LUL the money to upgrade the Tube for which it had been asking.
As I have written many times,the PPP is one of the great unheralded scandals of our time, having cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions – and probably billions – of pounds that could have been spent on upgrading the system instead of creating this complex system to upgrade the network. Yet, those accountable for this scandal, from Brown through his advisor Shriti (now Lady) Vadera and its inventor, Martin Callaghan now of PWC, have never been brought to book. Indeed, all been promoted or rewarded for this disgraceful episode.
It is precisely the complexity of the PPP and the fact that the detail of its contracts are hidden behind commercial confidentiality, that has prevented the scheme from getting the publicity which the sums of money involved merit.