More trouble signalled for Metronet

Just when you thought things at Metronet couldn't get any worse, along come another raft of allegations...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Just days after the hopeless tube maintenance company admitted that it was the subject of a fraud investigation by the British Transport Police, the London Evening Standard has been putting the boot in once again.

Metronet – the most disastrous public-private partnership since the Profumo Affair – finally went into administration in July last year. But the Standard says it is still charging Transport for London exorbitant rates for its staff: the very lowest grade of manual labourer apparently gets charged out at an extraordinary £87,000 a year, while technicians cost £144,000 a year and programme managers £226,000 a year. So the geniuses who project-managed one of the most catastrophic infrastructure projects in living memory are costing the taxpayer more than the Prime Minister.

We’re not sure what’s more remarkable – the rates themselves, or the fact that TfL actually agreed to them in the first place. It’s not even as though these expensive labourers and managers delivered the goods. According to the Standard, an audit of their ‘completed’ work at Queensway station discovered 346 electrical faults, 214 faulty fixtures and fittings, 125 communications faults and 41 fire alarm faults, plus ‘gaps in the floor’, ‘foul sewerage odours’ and ‘exposed electrical cables’. Not really ideal for a station ‘upgrade’...

The Standard also alleges that Metronet spent a small fortune treating staff and clients to corporate hospitality at Premiership football matches, hiring out a Thames pleasure boat for business meetings and organising ‘golf days’ for senior managers – presumably to celebrate their success in delivering an £8bn project several months late and £2bn over budget (while Tube Lines, the company that maintained the rest of the network, delivered its work on time and on budget).

Clearly the Tube upgrade is a horribly expensive and complicated exercise. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Metronet PPP has been a complete disaster – and that billions of pounds of fare-payers' and taxpayers’ money have been wasted in the process (probably with more to come).

It’s almost enough to make us feel sorry for London mayor Ken Livingstone – he’s been a vocal opponent of  Metronet (he once described it as ‘virtually every dysfunctional transport sub-contractor in Britain all lined up in one consortium’), but it’ll still end up blotting his copybook.  Actually, judging by the fact that Boris Johnson is apparently 12 points ahead in the polls, perhaps it already has...

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