North Londoners are facing some big public transport challenges over the coming months.
First the London Overground is being shut completely through Islington for upgrading from 20 February 2010 until 31 May 2010, with weekend closures for longer. That’s bad enough but just about bearable on its own. But now the Northern Line is facing regular closures too.
Incidentally, quite apart from messing up all those existing journeys, this makes a real mockery of the idea that it’s in any way easy for Islington residents to get to the Royal Free instead of Whittington. At least we have a direct, 24 hour bus to A&E at the Whittington, even if the trains aren’t running.
Tubelines are the surviving partners in Gordon Brown’s big idea for financing tube improvements, the Public Private Partnership or PPP. Like the other PFI deals, it was set up as a fixed-price, longterm contract, that would ‘outsource risk’ to the private sector by setting financial penalties if the job wasn’t done to time and on cost. So how has that worked in practice?
Metronet found they couldn’t deliver as agreed, so first asked for more money and more time – and then walked away from the job. Tubelines, still with us, are relatively-speaking, the good guys. They’ve completed their projects so far by playing a more cautious game: but that involves charging more money over a longer timescale than many commentators think is necessary. Londoners are literally paying the price, in taxes, in fare rises and in disruption. So much for outsourcing the risk.