The crisis of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) on London Underground should mean the end of privatisation for our public services.
Gordon Brown is to blame for the chaos. He pushed through the PPP when he was chancellor, handing a £30 billion, 30-year contract to multinational companies that had already grabbed huge chunks of the public sector.
As Socialist Worker went to press tube managers were briefing staff that the Metronet consortium responsible for maintaining and upgrading two thirds of the London Underground
network as part of the PPP was going into administration.
Disgracefully, this would mean that the public would have to pay the £1.9 billion debts run up due to Metronet’s inefficiency.
This shows the reality behind Brown and the government’s claims that PPP and Private Finance Initiatives transfer financial risks from the public sector to private companies.
As the Metronet scandal reveals, if the private companies get into trouble, the public is forced to pick up the bill.
Metronet is owned by five major companies who have benefited massively from the privatisation of public services – WS Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Bombardier, EDF Energy and Thames Water.
It has run up massive debts, despite grabbing £70 million a month from
It sought an extra £551 million from the public for its BCV infrastructure company, which works on the Bakerloo, Central, Victoria and Waterloo & City deep-level tube lines, in an attempt to get itself out of its crisis.
But Chris Bolt, the arbiter of the PPP, ruled that the firm should only receive another £121 million.
One of the reasons that Metronet ran up a huge overspend is that it handed out maintenance work only to its shareholder companies.
They caused the crisis through their inefficiency and incompetence. They should be forced to pay their own debts.
The RMT rail workers’ union and others warned that PPP would be a complete failure when it was introduced
in 2003. The collapse of Metronet should spell the end of privatisation – on
the tube and throughout our public services.
How much longer will this government allow multinationals to make profits at the expense of our schools, hospitals and transport system?
The RMT is demanding that the infrastructure of London Underground is brought back in-house.
The union will always fight to put safety and public service above the profits of the companies. RMT members on the Bakerloo line on London Underground were set to do just that from Thursday of this week during a planned 24-hour strike over safety.
The government must step in and finally end the chaos of privatisation. The Metronet scandal should be the end of the line for the fat cats who have taken our money and wrecked our services.
Unjum Mirza is the RMT rail union’s political officer for the London Transport region. He writes here in a personal capacity
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