Another nail in the PPP’s coffin

The rejection on Friday by an indpendent adjudicator of £327m claims by Tube Lines against Transport for London may well spell the end of the scandalous PPP contract. Tube Lines had argued that TfL was responsible for cost overruns on the delayed Northern and Jubilee contracts because of changes in scope but the adjudicator, in amazingly forthright language dismissed the claim out of hand, awarding costs to TfL.

The language of the adjudicator, a QC, suggeted he found the whole Tube Lines claim without merit, calling it ‘labyrinthine, artificial and unconvining’ and one that seems to have been ‘fashioned with the benefit of hindsight’. You don’t get language much stronger than that from lawyers.

The case highlights precisely the way in which the Public Private Partnership is nothing of the sort. There is no ‘partnership’ if one side is launching constant litigation against the other but that is the way which Bechtel is used to conduct business. Bechtel got this contract very wrong, failing to understand the difficulties of fitting a new signalling system on old metro lines Its default response, as with the Eest Coast Main Line scheme,  has been to argue that none of this was its fault,  and therefore it called on M’Learned friends.

Tube Lines has now learnt that even though the contract was designed by the government to deliberately favour the private contract, there is no guarantee that the contractor will necessarily win in the courts. it is highly unlikely, therefore, that the company will want to continue the contract after the review period given that the amount of money available is nothing like the £5bn, let alone £7bn, it sought. Watch, therefore, for a quiet negotiated end to Gordon Brown’s oh so clever way of losing vast amounts of taxpayers money.

  • RapidAssistant

    I think it boils down to the classic case of politicians, playing with a big real-life train set and meddling with,and making spurious assumptions about things that they know little about pretending to be experts. We’ve seen it time and time again – the root of the WCML debacle was that grand deals were being done against a backdrop of ignorance towards both the appalling condition of the infrastructure and the technical viability of an unproven signalling technology that was supposed to be a silver bullet to cure all ills. We, the taxpayer ended up footing the bill.

    The politicians were taken in by Metronet too, whose bosses ultimately underestimated the amount of renewal work that was really necessary on infrastructure that had been neglected and run on the cheap for decades. If all the money that was wasted on lawyers had been spent on paying trained railway specialists to do a detailed audit on the condition of every nut, bolt and washer then perhaps things would have worked out differently.

    When oh when will we ever learn, but perhaps the crux of it was that the PPP was a New Labour battering ram for Ken Livingstone following the humiliation of the 2000 mayoral election, and sadly it is the taxpayer that will be paying the price for decades.

  • G. Tingey

    The whole thing has to done-&-dusted by 6th May, hasn’t it – or rather 6 weeks before the election date?
    Which makes Wednesday. 25th March the dealine for this expensive Brown fiasco.

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