Lord Adonis‘s retort to Boris on the Tube Lines PPP arbitration is quite superb:
Under devolution, it is for the Mayor and TfL to deliver the Tube upgrades within their generous budget – not for me to bail them out if they fail to do so.
If Boris wants me to take charge of TfL then he should say, and I would start with more sensible priorities like not cancelling the Western congestion charge zone and not replacing a modern bus fleet needlessly – both of which are costing Londoners hundreds of millions of pounds which could be spent on upgrading the Tube.
At some point, I’m going to post on why Tube PPP was a Good Thing (at least, given 2000s capital market conditions – it’s possible that credit availability over the next 10 years will mean that PPP/PFI is no longer as good an idea as it was during the Blair years). It boils down to “the government is committed to paying the money whether it wants to or not, rather than buggering about with the budget year-on-year as happened from 1945-1997”.
(yes, this kind of long-term commitment sacrifices democratic decisionmaking in favour of efficiency. As regular readers will hopefully have picked up, this blog has no moral attachment to the concept of democracy, or “rule by a mob of ignorant idiots”; the only reason I’m not actively opposed to it is the empirical one that other means of governance generally seem to turn out even worse.)
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Up to a point – I realised a while back that one consequence of PFI/PPP was to shoot the Tory cuts/taxes fox, meaning they were effectively wedded to much higher taxes than they'd like and removing a major part of their arsenal. The problem is that this merely incentivises the buggers to cut other areas more or, as will happen in London, force the devolved authorities to accept the blame – Boris's nightmare scenario is Osborne coming in and slashing 10% off TfL's grant, since Boris gets it in the neck, still has to pay Tube Lines and the Metronet downfall costs but can't blame Labour any more.
TfL do, of course, have some perfectly sensible PFIs like Oyster, DLR extensions and the East London Line, suggesting that it's the quality of the contracts rather than the idea that's the problem. Given that, it's probably better for someone deeply cynical about the private sector to sign them off rather than a starry-eyed entrepreneur worshipper, on which note the other crap PFI was Croydon Tramlink, which was a Tory one…
Tom speaketh 100% pure truth.
Related advice to Londoners: rent or buy a flat near a Tube or NR station, because the bus network is going to get *utterly buggered* if the Tories win in May.
"rent or buy a flat near a Tube or NR station"
I own a house near an SWT station and ten minutes from the Tube/Overground. This is, of course, North of the River. It's the south Londoners who'll really get screwed over, as usual.
suggesting that it’s the quality of the contracts rather than the idea that’s the problem
This is "errors of post-war planning" with a wheel at each corner. The reason why John's post, when it comes, will be wrong, is that the way the PFI was set up meant that it was more or less guaranteed to deliver the kind of contracts that it actually did.
JB, can I request an obituary on the PPP now that Tube Lines has died too? Its death throes were quite fun though — just before TfL bought out TL, Amey and Bechtel did get the PPP Arbiter to accept that their delayed and disruptive upgrades were at least a load cheaper than the ones TfL is now doing through the ex-Metronet business.
Would be good to get a non-transport geek view though!
If you want a non-transport-geek view you may be asking the wrong person. Although I guess from the POV of a rail hack I probably qualify ;-)
Yes, I'd like to do that too. I've got some quite heavy deadlines coming up for paid work at the moment though, so it might be a while coming. Don't suppose you can think of anyone who'd be willing to pay me to write it up…?