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Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
Byers puts safety first for Tube
The London Underground
Byers says the changed contracts put safety first
Transport Secretary Stephen Byers has announced changes to the public private partnership (PPP) contracts for the London Underground in an effort to hit back at criticism of the scheme.

Mr Byers said on Tuesday the alterations to the contracts would put safety first and would strengthen public sector control of work done by the private companies bidding to take charge of the Tube infrastructure.

These changes demonstrate in the clearest terms that safety will not be compromised

Stephen Byers
Transport Secretary
Safety concerns have been at the heart of the battle fought against the PPP plans by London Mayor Ken Livingstone and his transport commissioner Bob Kiley.

The contract changes set out by the government include giving London Underground (LU) "step in" rights to ensure all work done by the successful bidders meets health and safety requirements.

'Clear message'

Mr Byers said: "These proposed changes are important because they demonstrate in the clearest terms that safety will not be compromised and that the Tube is not to privatised or part-privatised".

London Mayor Ken Livingstone and his transport commissioner, Bob Kiley
Livingstone and Kiley have battled against PPP
The amendments showed it would be the private sector working under contract and "answerable publicly to the publicly-owned London Underground," he said.

The government's Tube modernisation programme aims to put 13bn of investment into the network in the next 15 years.

The government said key changes to the contracts included:

  • Approval rights for LU over the work plans of the three infrastructure companies, which would have to meet "key milestones".

  • "Step in" rights for LU to take action on health and safety grounds even if the private company has not breached its obligations, forcing "immediate" action.

  • "Open book access" to infrastructure company information to allow it to monitor that maintenance is completed to LU's standards.

  • Power for LU to appoint a "partnership director" to the board of each infrastructure company to help ensure the board works "effectively and transparently".

  • Power for LU to impose new standards across a wide range of areas "including, critically, safety".

    Full control demand

    Ken Livingstone and Bob Kiley have insisted Transport for London should have full control of the day-to-day maintenance of the Tube.

    How the PPP contracts are split
    Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly Lines
    Bakerloo, Central and Victoria Lines
    District and Circle, and Metropolitan Lines
    A spokesman for Mr Kiley told London's Evening Standard newspaper on Tuesday: "It is not clear if this offers anything new.

    "The government had already offered step-in powers and they did not go anywhere towards meeting our safety concerns.

    "We will be happy to look at these proposals when we are given the opportunity."

    Under the PPP plan, three private consortia will be put in charge of maintaining the Tube infrastructure, with each responsible for a different section of the Tube network.

    'Political noise'

    London Underground boss Derek Smith complained that investment plans had suffered months of needless delay "due to political noise and expensive legal wrangling".

    "It's now time to turn these proposals into a firm deal without further delay," said Mr Smith, who expected formal talks with bidders to resume in the middle of this month.

    The "eleventh hour" contract changes stoked criticism, however, from shadow transport minister Bernard Jenkin.

    He said: "If Mr Byers is still amending the PPP, he is admitting it is wrong... The right thing to do is to drop the discredited PPP"

    Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Tom Brake sounded a similar note, saying: "The government has spent over three years and upwards of 100m on negotiating these deals.

    "Only now do they acknowledge that safety was not guarded under PPP."

    The changes failed to stem the campaign of the Rail, Maritime and transport union's Bob Crow.

    "Political tinkering and papering over the cracks will not hide the fact that PPP will create a structurally less safe Tube that places profit before passengers," he said.

  • Tube's uncertain future

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