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Thursday, 2 August, 2001, 10:34 GMT 11:34 UK
What now for London Underground?
The Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has lost his High Court attempt to stop the government's planned part privatisation of the tube.

Ministers want to bring in private firms to help maintain and modernise the Underground. They say that will provide much needed cash for investment.

But Mr Livingstone argued it would mean he would be unable to run a safe tube network.

The Tube, which everyone agrees needs modernisation, has three million daily passengers, often suffering long delays in overcrowded and hot train carriages.

But what is the best option for London's Underground? Has the government or the mayor got it wrong?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

Why are so many people going through London daily? Surely we should be finding out why they are and seeing if there are any other alternatives before starting the tube investment, which will, in the short term, cause more problems. Perhaps if we cut the number of people who have to spend hours travelling, they will end up having better lives.
Alan, UK

Blair just cannot let go, can he? He promises to devolve power to Londoners, but rigs the system to impose a losing candidate for Mayor. Not exactly learning from the humiliating defeat of Dobbo, he now wants to impose an equally unpopular package of tube privatisation upon us.
Martyn Williams, UK


There is no question that private investment is needed

Justin Berkovi, Hove, UK
There is no question that private investment is needed. Firstly the tube carriages need air conditioning installed. Secondly the stations need modernising and cleaning. The task is monumental and it's impossible to expect a government to efficiently get involved.
Justin Berkovi, Hove, UK

Hey, yeah, put the tube tracks into the hands of a private company. After all, it worked so brilliantly for the railways, didn't it?
Antony, UK

As a supporter of the Government and a local Labour Party member I am amazed at the way that the Government has fumbled the political ball on this issue. Public transport networks are always going to be a nightmare to run and fund (the US experience has enough lessons for us), so why not throw everything over to Ken? Chances are the project will run into difficulty regardless of which model - bonds (as favoured by the Mayor) or PPP (the Government's favoured model). If Ken was left holding the ball when it all goes wrong, the Government is in the clear, and if he makes a success of it he will be rightly hailed as a hero. What's the problem ? For a Government struggling to shake off allegations of control-freakery, they are certainly not making things any easier for themselves.
Matthew Salter, UK

I can only assume that their incredibly stubborn insistence on PPP against almost all the expert opinion must be the Government's revenge on Londoners for electing Ken Livingstone as Mayor. As Ken once said, "if voting changed anything, they'd abolish it".
Roy Stilling, London, UK

It's important to remember that this is all being driven by the Treasury. PPP allows them to spread the cost of upgrading the tube over many years - important, because the Government is committed to expenditure it/we couldn't otherwise afford. The fact that it will be far more expensive than simply paying 'cash' is irrelevant - as it is to anyone who has a mortgage. That's all this boils down to, and all the other waffle around this subject is irrelevant.
Andrew, UK


How come other large undergrounds work when the tube doesn't?

Paul, UK
How come other large undergrounds work when the tube doesn't? New York's subway may be difficult to use at first, but it is air conditioned, and has large carriages. It is not expensive and America is hardly known for its high taxes! The metro in Paris also operates efficiently, again without astronomical taxation or high prices at the point of use. So why is the Tube overcrowded, hot and vulnerable to delays when a mouse sneezes 10 stations along the line?
Paul, UK

And to think that I went out hammering doors and posting leaflets to help get this mob of anti-democrats elected. I rue the day.
John Bennett, Reading, UK

I guess I'd better get myself a new pair of walking shoes. As often as not it's already quicker to walk from Waterloo to Bank than to queue and take the drain. I guess if enough people start to use their feet and their cars then the already disastrous tube "service" will be able to cope with the reduced number of commuters. Bingo - Phony Tony's plan works out just fine.
John B, UK

The only good news from all this is that PPP might result in more investment. But since the National Audit Office report found that the only successful PPPs were the smaller-scale ones, I wouldn't get too optimistic. Strikes me that this is yet another Treasury-led attempt to minimise long term, lower cost, capital spending and replace it with short term, expensive, revenue spend.
Keith Mendum, UK


I think the PPP approach is an excellent idea

Irma Trolling, UK
I think the PPP approach is an excellent idea - I don't believe that any more public money should be pumped into a transport system that is of no use to most people in this country.
Irma Trolling, UK

I think now that the court case is over they should get on with delivering whatever it is they are proposing. The worst case scenario is the current one, i.e. nothing happening at all. Anyone who voted Labour in the last election has no right to moan about this. You asked for it... this Government's arrogance was on show for all to see in the last session and it is clear this time around they are only going to get worse. I fear it is going to be a rocky five years. We will then get the chance to judge them again, and if they succeed they may win back the vote I gave them in 97. I somehow doubt it though...
Philip, UK

This system will surely fail, as the private consortia will not bother with any maintenance, in much the same way as Railtrack did nothing for over 4 years and made huge profits. Also, Ken Livingstone will be left responsible for this unworkable system. I think the Government have had it in for Livingstone ever since he left the Labour party, and so they are trying to make him as powerless as possible. Another reason why the Government wants to get PPP finalised is because the private companies have threatened to sue if they are not awarded contracts, as they have been shadow-running the network for a year already.
Elvis Pack, UK

So what is Livingstone's alternative? He doesn't have much money to give to the underground, so he'll have to get it from somewhere. If the Government can't afford to pay for all of the upgrades without getting the private sector involved, what is Ken's solution? Does he think money grows on trees? Maybe he could increase fares to pay for the improvements. See how many would turn against him then! He needs to wake up to the reality of life.
Debra Deans, London, UK

Never mind which solution is best. Isn't it the Government's legendary arrogance that's shocking? It seems that democracy has little purpose when the Government rides roughshod over it, and does exactly what it wants anyway. Oh well, perhaps in 60-70 years we can look forward to a safe, clean, modern tube system.
Alastair Stevens, UK


The system that has been designed for PPP is nothing like Railtrack

James, UK
The tube is in a state and needs a lot of cash to sort it out. Ken's bond idea has not been talked about for ages. Could it be that actually, since Kiley has been able to actually look at our system he has realised that it is not actually feasible after all.

Another crazy argument is the old "We don't want another Railtrack!" or "We don't want another Hatfield!" Again, doesn't anyone listen to the facts. The system that has been designed for PPP is nothing like Railtrack. Control will be with the public side. Has everyone forgotten what "PPP" actually stands for. I think it is about time people started having a sensible and informed discussion rather than the nonsense that is being put about at the moment
James, UK

The reason for all this is very simple. The Labour Party is just trying take its revenge on the Mayor. If the PPP scheme goes pear shaped, or safety is compromised in such a way major accidents occur then you need to have a scapegoat to other then yourselves. Unfortunately the chance of all this backfiring is large, and many labour MP's seats may than be in jeopardy. With regard to "Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate or the vast amount of legislation for ensuring the railways are safe" Has Peter from the UK been paying attention the last few years. Weren't there some rather large, rather avoidable train crashes?
Peter Heerens, Netherlands (ex Scotland),

I can't believe the stubborn stupidity of the government: One PRIVATE owner of the tube please (or one per tube line). The Japanese have the best trains in the world and they managed through privatisation: Europe is not a good model, public railways may work for the French but France is a socialist country, we are not- the UK needs a privatised system. This goes for both over-ground and underground.
Steve, UK

The election for the London Mayor was fought over this issue. And it is clear which way people voted. The courts have ruled against the wishes of the people (no surprise there, then). Ken, it is time that you realised that this is a battle you cannot win on your own. It is about time you called on the people who voted for you. Our Tube is not for sale.
Jim, UK

Well this just about makes the decision for me, I shall have to leave London within the next 5 years before the deaths on the Tube start due to poor track maintenance. Have the Government learnt nothing from RailTrack. At least Ken did his best to stop this strange form of government madness. They may have gone too far this time, could this be Labour's Poll Tax? After all the Conservatives ignored all protest on that issue for a long time in much the same way, and it cost them.
Colin Wright, UK

Who is footing the legal bill for Ken Livingstone's action and the Government's defence? I am sure that it is the taxpayer and long-suffering tube user, while we are waiting for some action. Petty squabbling is not helping. The London public needs to have access to the detailed plans of the two parties, along with intelligent analysis, then we should be able to vote in a referendum between the two opposing ideas. This is democracy after all. Whoever sorts out London's transport mess gets my vote for life!
Kate, UK

My fear is that once the 5 congestion charge is brought in, that the extra people travelling on the Tube will quite literally cause the service to grind to a complete halt. It's already normal to be prevented from entering platforms in rush hour due to chronic overcrowding- and that's before we force motorists off the road.

Keep in mind that we also are already experiencing trains breaking down in tunnels and people having to be carried out of stations on stretchers suffering from chronic exhaustion/dehydration. Following current developments, is it really going to be long before we see a major catastrophe on the Tube?
Dean, UK

It seems that the proponents of the PPP system are few. It wouldn't be the first time that the majority had got it wrong. However, if the PPP system is really the right thing to do, then why is no one making an effort to explain why? I've heard ranting from both sides, seen a totally incompetent Stephen Byers making a fool of himself on the news, and heard many people suggest good reasons why the PPP should not go ahead. But nowhere have I heard why we should want the PPP. I think it is time for all relevant information to enter the public domain.
Alice, London, UK

I have written to my Labour MP, promising that I will not vote Labour in ANY (municipal, European, parliamentary) elections, if PPP is forced through. The only way we can create pressure is with the promise of total electoral annihilation in London for the perpetrators of this piece of folly.
Hugh Barnard, UK

This is an issue about the democratic right of Londoners to determine their own destiny. Livingstone was brought to power on the back of a manifesto that opposed PPP and yet this fact is being totally disregarded by Brown. This smacks of an unprecedented arrogance from the Government that causes fury to the impotent and downtrodden cattle masquerading as London commuters
Kevin, UK

How can a train system that is run for profit possibly be better than one run for people's needs? I thought that had already been proven by Railtrack.
Jim, UK

It defies belief the Government is insisting on PPP. They published tables showing the timetable of improvement with the laughable results of new trains in 15 years, and painting the stations first! Bob Kiley's plan gives new trains in 5-7 years, which as any passenger will tell you, is infinitely preferable when the majority of time on the tube is spent on the train. The companies that will take over will do as little maintenance as possible, let the system degenerate further, and only in the last 5-10 yrs of the contracts actually do anything. Well done Gordon Brown and his puppet Steven Byers, you have guaranteed more misery for commuters for the next 20 yrs.
Andrew, UK


Selling it off as one unit would have produced marvellous results

Anthony, England
The Tube is a monument to what happens if you let politicians, local or national, run a railway. A total and utter disaster. There is only one option that will work - privatise the whole lot to one firm. Don't divide track and trains or have several companies involved. British Rail was only just competent but selling it off as one unit would have produced marvellous results. Didn't British Airways do OK when privatised. But of course it wasn't broken up into many little units.
Anthony, England

Having lived and commuted in both London and Paris, I can state with 100% certainty, that a public sector underground rail service is the only way to go. Not only do they employ safety staff instead of trying to cut spending, they also provide a much cheaper service. When Londoners are treated to a Zone 1-4 monthly Travelcard for less than 50 for the service (like in Paris), there will be fewer complaints. Under the current management, more of the cash taken from commuters needs to be ploughed back into the PUBLIC underground system - preferably installing basic air conditioning and increasing access for less able bodied passengers.
Karina, France

I'm astounded that the Government wants to carve up the underground in a way not dissimilar to the way in which the railways were carved up. I predict that we will not get the promised improvements. Then everybody can blame everybody else. And everyone will blame Ken Livingstone. Personally, I blame the Government and having always voted Labour, albeit reluctantly last time, I doubt I shall do so again.
Andy D, UK

The way that the Government wants to wreck the chance for London to decide how it runs its affairs reminds me of the way the last Tory government rushed through privatisation of the railways when they knew they'd lose the election. In both cases, we know the outcome. The Labour Government needs the support of Londoners in 4 year's time and we won't forgive them if they force this on us.
Andy Ballingall, UK

How much would it cost to bring the Tube up to the standard of the Tokyo subway system? Yes it's busy, but it is reliable, CLEAN, and relatively safe. Most of it is run privately and seems profitable. The key is that because it is reliable, it is actually used. If London invested in its subway (and other public transport) then maybe you'd see less traffic on the streets (provide people with a viable alternative and why would they want to drive?). It would be a huge investment, and I'm sure that the public sector wouldn't want that kind of debt on it's hands. The result will probably be half investment with no significant improvements, leading to under-use of the system, leading to less investment, leading to what we have now - if we're lucky!
Christopher Laird, Japan

So, boycott the tube. For the price of a return journey you can all afford to buy a moped (on HP) and a good quality Gortex jacket. Your journey time will be slightly longer but, much healthier. Learn to be proactive and not reactive. TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIVES
Mart, Canada

Who knows more about running a mass transit system, Gordon Brown or Bob Kiley? Once again, the Treasury thinks it can run a railway and ignore all the experts. We've seen where that takes us, and London's Labour MP's will feel it at the next election.
Phil Strother, England

I bet no MPs that have voted in PPP have to travel on the tube!
Lee Everitt, England

Anyone remember the case of the managing director of one of the rolling stock companies was privatised during the sell-off of the railways and who personally made at least 12million as a result? He'd previously been a fairly average middle-manager in British Railways. I sincerely hope that we won't see anything like this during the 'PPP' but it's safe to say that some of the key players in LU and elsewhere will be significantly better off as a result of this. Some might see this as a kind of corruption.
Robert Jones, UK

This issue is deeper than the difficulties concerning the future of the Tube; it is about devolved democracy. Ken Livingstone is the democratic leader of London, yet his wishes and the wishes of the people of London have been over ridden by a Chancellor from Scotland. I wonder what the political consequences would have been if an English Chancellor had over ridden an important local issue raised by the Scottish parliament? Fundamentally, what is the point of having a Mayor of London, and devolution when a devolved leader is politically castrated?
Lloyd, Saudi

Sometimes it amazes me how a Government who are supposed to be politically savvy can show such an ability to goof when it comes to London issues. It appears that Labour want Ken Livingston to continue to be elected for the next 30 years. HE will implement transport improvements all over London, except on the Underground and bring the inefficiencies of central government policies into sharp relief. No relief for those who have only the Underground as a practical mode of travel.
Eoin Donnellon, London, UK

The London Underground dates back to 1863 and is the world's oldest subway system. It is also heavily used and is therefore deteriorating. The kind of maintenance and modernization that it really needs would mean closing down the entire system for three years and London cannot afford to live without the Underground. I think the debate of public vs. private ownership is academic because of its age, needs and the fact that it has flaws that other underground systems do not have, because it was the first.
Jeff, USA

As a regular tube user, I find the Government's whole attitude to this an absolute kick in the teeth. When such an extraordinarily broad consensus of groups (from the Tories to the rail unions, press to us passengers) think the plans are rubbish. How the Government thinks it can get away with railroading it through is beyond all common reason. If Kiley/Livingstone don't appeal, there's only one group left who can cause the govt to change its position - London's public. I call on all tube users to get behind this position and back - the people's campaign.
Sam Owens, UK

What next? Well the lefties will have a moan about private involvement, and the right-wingers will blame the public sector for the current state of the tube. Red Ken will prance around looking self-important, and moaning about how safety will suffer (presumably he's never heard about Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate or the vast amount of legislation for ensuring the railways are safe). As for actually doing anything useful.... You've got more chance finding a seat on the Northern line in the rush hour.
Peter, UK

I don't know if you had taken the bus lately. Imagine now that you have a complaint. You e-mail Transport for London. Their response is that they can't help you because the buses are run by private companies. As a result, Transport for London is not responsible but they can make a suggestion to the companies. God help us the same thing will happen with the Tube.
Beguedou, England

I'd sooner keep Bob Kiley, who does after all have a successful track record of managing an Underground, and sack Stephen Byers instead. Blind adherence to a policy for which several learned bodies predict failure cannot do the Government any favours. The facts:

(a) The PPP won't raise as much as the bond scheme proposed by Ken Livingstone. (b) Split responsibility for safety doesn't work. Haven't we learned that lesson from Railtrack? (c) The assumption that private management is automatically more efficient than public sector has also been proven wrong on many occasions. How do we prevent this disaster in the making? Tube users need to make their feelings known in a big way - vote with our feet!
Andy Millward, UK

Would it not be wonderful if our MPs stood up in the Commons and said. Mr Blair we do not agree with the PPP, we think you should think again, instead of putting their careers before the safety of their constituents.
Sylvia Howard, UK


After 20 years of under-investment and shocking management, is it any surprise that it's in the state it is?

Nick Wilkinson, UK
Although it's a hackneyed saying these days, if Government ministers ever rode the Tube on a regular basis instead of being driven around, then they might start to appreciate just how unpleasant it can be. After 20 years of under-investment and shocking management, is it any surprise that it's in the state it is? The fault lies not with the public sector but with tight-fisted governments who have treated the Tube like a charity it can give hand-outs to occasionally to prop it up, instead of investing properly in a transport system Londoners can be proud of.
Nick Wilkinson, UK

How about we let the government get on with it the way they want. In five years time we have an independent review of where we're all at and if things are fine Tony, Gordon et al get a big bonus and are branded heroes. If things turn out badly (i.e. as anyone who knows anything about the system expects) we sue the culprits for negligence and fine them personally. Would they stand by their "firm conviction" that this scheme will work if they actually had something to lose? I doubt it.
Richard, UK

I want to know what the difference is between the National Rail Network and the Underground. Why? Because the Underground will go exactly the same way as the National Rail Network! Aren't people suggesting re-nationalisation of the National Rail Network at the moment?
Paul, The Midlands, UK

The PPP deal will be disastrous for London's ill-treated tube commuters. As a tax-paying tube user, I demand some accountability. I demand to know the names of the ministers and individuals who are responsible for imposing this cheap fix on London's workers. When the system fails, and it surely will, I want to know exactly who is responsible for the injury and deaths that will result from the government's shoddy and wilful intransigence.
Joe, UK

There seem to be two main problems;


The government is behaving like children who dig their heels in when opposed

Leonora Lloyd
a) The scheme seems to be for the government to assemble the PPP schemes, and then leave Ken Livingstone to sort out the mess. Is this management theory of the mad?

b) I have not seen any list of what the 'improvements' are going to be, and their schedule for implementation. I presume that all the existing 'pro PPP' management in London Transport are in line for plum jobs with the new private contractors - hence their enthusiasm, and failure to get anything improved over the past few years. Where is the evidence that replacing the existing system will improve it?
Richard Lewis, England

My concern is that with a 30-year lifespan on the new PPP contracts, we the travelling public will have to suffer in silence for a very long time indeed. At least the current system, flawed though it is, means that we can vote against it in the polls every five years!
John Smith, UK

The tube should be kept in public ownership and control. That's why Ken Livingstone, not the official New Labour candidate, was elected. All profits should be ploughed back into the tube, not into shareholders' pockets and fat cat directors rewarding themselves with large bonuses. The government is behaving like children who dig their heels in when opposed, however ridiculous their proposal.
Leonora Lloyd, UK

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