One could hardly write the script as fiction. On the very day that Gordon Brown is teetering on the edge of oblivion and the House of Lords, one of his cherished projects, the London Underground PPP is breathing its last. The news that Transport for London is going to be taking over Tube Lines and running the contracts to maintain the Tube leaked out on the very day that voters were going to the polls. Since Metronet has already gone to join Railtrack, various franchises and the Strategic Rail Authority in the big dustbin of failed organisations, the demise of Tube Lines effectively means that the PPP joins this infamous group.
As I have mentioned many times before, this is a great scandal that has attracted little attention because it is so complex that neither journalists nor their readers can be bothered to examine it closely. Yet, not only did it cost north of £500m in consultancies and fees to set up, but it was right from the outset an unworkable arrangement. As I wrote in my book, Down the Tube, it was not even really a partnership, and was just a clever scheme designed to give the private sector control over a public sector project financed by huge amounts of taxpayers; money. It is an added irony is that one of its opponents, whom I quote in the book, Susan Kramer, lost her seat in Richmond at the election.
The real scandal is that Gordon Brown has never been called to account for his insistence on pushing through the doomed scheme and never will. Sure the bill of several billion pales into insignificance when compared with the banking mess which he helped create, but nevertheless if we had a more effective democracy, Brown would have been made to pay for his errors over the PPP.