DISCUSSIONS were under way between the British government and Transport for London last month over the structure of the London Underground Public-Private Partnership. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott announced on February 2 that he had asked TfL’s Commissioner for Transport Bob Kiley ’to take the lead in working up proposals for modifying the PPP’.

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and Kiley had previously expressed concern about potential differences in investment priorities between the three private Infrastructure Companies and the public operator New London Underground. Kiley also queried the lines of responsibility and the impact on service quality.

Granted access to the final bids and other documents, Kiley intended to see if ’the PPP structure can be modified so that there is unified management control over the operation, maintenance and renewal of the Underground’. An initial meeting between TfL and the shortlisted bidders took place on February 9, and Kiley met Prescott a week later to suggest that this could be achieved if the public sector retained a 51% stake in each Infraco.

Although TfL had suggested that the PPP as presently structured ’is not going to be the way forward’, the LINC consortium said in mid-February that it expected the format of three Infracos and the involvement of private equity to remain. Tube Lines Group accepted that the bids might have to be revised, leading to a slippage of two to three months in the plan to have JNP and BCV in private hands from April 1.

LINC, Metronet and Surface Lines Group submitted their best and final offers for Sub-Surface Lines on February 5 as scheduled.