Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Messy Compromise

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Messy Compromise

Article excerpt

THIS GOVERNMENT knows how unpopular it has made itself with Londoners by making an unholy mess of the Tube. That is why, days before the General Election announcement, ministers were scrabbling last week to strike a deal with London's Transport Commissioner. The outcome may - just - suffice to deter Mr Bob Kiley and Mayor Ken Livingstone from making a big fuss during the campaign. It should not, however, prevent commuters from seeing through the shoddy facade. What has happened - as far as we can judge, because like everything else to do with the Tube, the deal is still a muddle - is that PPP staggers on, but Mr Kiley is being empowered to negotiate the contracts.

This satisfies one of the designated Tube supremo's major complaints, that the Government was making agreements with construction companies without reference to those who would have to make them work.

Mr Kiley is highly experienced in haggling with construction companies about underground rail systems.

Indeed, he has dealt with several of the Government's preferred bidders in the past. He has always argued that he can secure better cash terms than ministers have been talking about. Now he will have a chance to prove it. But if Mr Kiley and even the Mayor prove willing to go along with the Government's latest version of its pantomime horse, Londoners should not do so. The bottom line is that PPP, a flawed structure that splits track and operations and satisfies only the conceit of Mr Gordon Brown, remains in being. PPP still stinks.

Mr Blair has rushed through this latest piece of cosmetic surgery for one reason only - because he wants to get the Tube off the agenda for his general election campaign. He should not succeed. Whatever Londoners do or do not do on polling day, they should not forget that Mr Blair has failed this city miserably. First, he committed himself to devolution for the capital, then tried to devolve power to a moth-eaten glove-puppet from his own toy-cupboard. Then, after the humiliation of Frank Dobson and the triumph of New Labour's arch-foe Ken Livingstone, the Government set about forcing through a reconstruction plan for the Tube that made no sense when he unveiled it, and makes even less now. …

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