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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

London Underground £3bn Funding Gap

Transport for London yesterday morning blamed the government for a three billion pound funding gap, as the cost of repairing the Tube goes sky high.

The Guardian reported yesterday: "An assessment of the Tube network's financial needs published this morning outlined a financial black hole of up to £1.4bn on a third of London's underground lines.

King's Cross London Underground Station
Someone needs to watch the Government - King's Cross station looking tatty

"The latest figures create a severe financial headache for the government when they are added to the projected £2bn funding gap on the rest of the tube system. Transport for London, the London mayor's transport authority, this morning blamed the government and said the Treasury would have to step in
."

Tim O'Toole who runs the London Underground said "Any funding required above TfL's budget should be met by continuing support by government, who imposed this PPP structure on the tube and Londoners" .

The real scale of the problem was shown in a report by the PPP contract referee, Chris Bolt. He said carrying out vital upgrade work on the Northern, Piccadilly & Jubilee Lines up to 2017 would cost between £5.1bn and £5.5bn. TfL reckon it would cost £4.1bn and therefore faces a gap of up to £1.4bn.

However, Tube Lines, who own the PPP contracts for the work believe that's an understatement. They think the work will cost £7.2bn, so that would be an overspend of up to £2.1bn. They imply that the Government should put in place long-term financial backing for the network and not allot cash every seven years.

"The question is not should the upgrade of the tube cost this much but how is this vital work to be funded? Funding for future tube improvements must be secured and maintained" said a spokesperson from the company.

Dave Hill from The Guardian has responses from the political parties:

Val Shawcross, Labour London Assembly member who's the chair of the Transport Committee said: "It's vital that the planned investment and refurbishment programme for London Underground goes ahead. Our tube network is key to London's success as a world city; we need to ensure it remains so. The system is facing an increasing demand and must be able to keep up yet work on the Piccadilly line in particular has not yet begun.

Notice of repairs at King's Cross Station - Piccadilly Line

Given the very large shortfall, over and above the amount the Government have already granted to TfL for this period of the PPP contract, I would expect the Mayor to enter into negotiations with ministers to secure funds to enable all the planned works to go ahead. Tube Lines have generally been doing a good job for London. The next phase of their contract isn't for gold plating the tube - it's for vital maintenance and improvement works
."

Roger Evans, a Transport type from the Conservatives said "I share the concerns of TfL about this new black hole that appears to be opening up. We need to see more details and it might prove essential for the Assembly Transport Committee to hold a special session to get to the bottom of this. Last year, in the wake of the Metronet collapse, I appeared before the commons transport select committee (in my role as London assembly chairman of transport), and urged them to recommend the government provided the funding to make up the shortfall - a shortfall caused by their scheme.

The same principle should apply to a shortfall in the Tubelines contract. Fare payers cannot be expected to swallow another 10% increase which would be needed to raise £1bn, and asking TfL to find the money would put major capital projects like Crossrail at risk
."

I travel on the Piccadilly & Northern Lines every day and as the pictures above show, King's Cross Station looks like it's being held together by sticky tape and that's just the noticeable stuff. Some stations clearly look like they need a MAJOR overhaul and it's interesting to hear from Shawcross that work on the Piccadilly Line hasn't even begun yet.

This is one of the reasons why the Tube fare increase riles me. A few commenters in my post about the fare rise said "stop moaning" and "you should see what transport is like in my city". The thing is, I don't live in Yorkshire. I live in London and me and 3 million other people pay some of the most expensive fares in the world to put up with a system that clearly isn't being funded. As Evans says, it's us fare payers that are going to pay for this shortfall and if ridiculously expensive fares meant a better service, all well & good (sort of), but unfortunately it doesn't.


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