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From The Socialist newspaper, 26 July 2007

Metronet walks away from trouble...

LAST WEEK Metronet, the private company that maintained and upgraded two-thirds of London's underground (LUL) network under the notorious public-private partnership (PPP), called in the administrators.

A Metronet maintenance worker

Metronet had wanted LUL to pay an extra 551 million over the next year to help cover overrun costs, but tube PPP arbiter Chris Bolt ruled last week that Metronet should receive only 121 million.

Metronet had argued that LUL should pick up the entire cost overrun bill of 2 billion, despite these privateers (made up, they claim, of 'world class' companies WS Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Bombardier, EDF and Thames Water) clearly underestimating the cost of refurbishing the tube.

The company put their priority - big profits - before their programme of station improvement that they got significantly behind on and overspent massively, before begging the government to rescue them.

Last week the trade unions met the administrators, Ernst & Young, to ensure that the workforce's jobs would not be threatened.

The RMT union delegation, led by general secretary Bob Crow, made it clear that any attempt to cut jobs, pay or conditions or to forcibly transfer staff would lead to an industrial dispute.

The RMT said they would be demanding that infrastructure work should now remain in-house with staff employed directly by Transport for London (TfL).

We are dismayed that Metronet senior managers will remain in place, but staff realise this will be only temporary. Ernst & Young and Metronet say it's 'business as usual'. No one on the shop floor believes this and no-one would shed a tear for these fat cats.

This government claims that PPP and PFI schemes transfer financial risk from the public sector to the private sector.

What Metronet proves is that when things go wrong, it's the other way round. TfL could be forced to pay back 95% of the bankrupt company's 2 billion debt.

The PPP is a license to make money for big businesses. They can walk away at any time without any major comeback on themselves, leaving the public sector to pick up the bill.

Bob Crow said "By any measure it would be cheaper and more efficient to hand the PPP contracts back to LUL, but letting them back out to the private sector courts disaster".

Taking back both Metronet's and Tubelines' PPP contracts in-house is London Underground's only option to avoid the risk of catastrophic network failures.

It's time to stop these profit-hungry privateers from milking the public purse dry. "Take back the track" into a publicly owned, publicly run Tube network.

... but with profits

Metronet companies' profits

WS Atkins 82 million
Balfour Beatty 366 million
Thames Water 347 million
Bombardier 242 million
EDF 3.5 billion

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In The Socialist 26 July 2007:

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Postal workers: Their fight is our fight

Critical dispute for postal workers


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Tales from the council chambers

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