Tube maintenance work to continue

19-07-2007

Tube maintenance work to continue
Maintenance work on the London Underground is to continue after transport chiefs vowed to keep the tube running following the collapse of the company responsible for maintaining most of the network.

Metronet, which maintains nine of the capital's 12 tube lines, announced yesterday that it had asked London mayor Ken Livingstone to bring in administrators following "a period of financial uncertainty" at the company.

Appointed to carry out maintenance work under a public private partnership (PPP) funding agreement, Metronet said that it was no longer able to carry out its contracts after it ran out of money in the face of cost overruns.

However at a press conference following the announcement Alan Bloom, from appointed administrators Ernst & Young, revealed that he had secured "hundreds of millions of pounds" of emergency funding from the mayor's transport body to ensure that work to upgrade the tube could continue.

It is unclear how much money has been provided by Transport for London, but reports suggest that the figure could be around £750 million.

Metronet has confirmed that its staff will continue to be paid and that its third party creditors will be paid money owed to them while administrators seek to transfer the company's maintenance activities to a new operating company.

London Underground managing director Tim O'Toole revealed yesterday that it had already been planning for the possibility of Metronet's collapse, with the company stressing that it "routinely" carries out continuity planning in regard to its key suppliers.

"Our priority is the delivery of a safe and reliable tube service for passengers and therefore we had no option but to undertake considerable planning for the possibility that Metronet's financial difficulties would require it to enter administration," he said.

Mr Livingstone stressed yesterday that he was confident London Undergound passengers would not face fare increases to pay for the cost of continuing tube maintenance in the aftermath of Metronet's collapse.

But some London politician's are skeptical, with members of the capital's assembly passing a motion urging the mayor to ensure that the administration will not result in ticket prices going up.

The Conservative's transport spokesman in the assembly, Roger Evans, also claimed that taxpayers would be left to pay for the collapse of Metronet after Transport for London's chief financial officer admitted that the body was unlikely to see the return of the money it was lending to administrators to keep maintenance work going.

"The wheels have come off this public private partnership and it's the tax payer who will be forced to pick up the bill," Mr Evans insisted.



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