Public picks up £1.7 billion Metronet bill

07 February 2008

Keith Norman, ASLEF general secretary, said that news that the taxpayer will have to find £1.7 billion for the incompetence of the failed rail maintenance company Metronet ‘underlines the utter folly of public-private partnerships (PPP) within the rail industry’


‘The taxpayer is being squeezed for £1.7 billion because Metronet was incapable of doing its job,’ Keith says. ‘Contrast this with how train drivers would be treated if they were shown to be incompetent. They’d be given nothing - except the sack.


‘The logic is inescapable. Either Metronet investors should get nothing – or an incompetent driver should be handsomely rewarded for his or her failings.’


The union says Metronet provides a perfect example of how private investment in railways works. ‘If their contract proves to be profitable, they pick up money. If it proves to be unprofitable – they pick up money.’


The £1.7 billion will be paid to investors who lent money to the company which went into administration last July.


Transport secretary Ruth Kelly said the funding to investors ‘carries forward our commitment to modernising and extending the capital's public transport system’. Keith Norman says it rather underlines the government’s commitment to PPP and horror at the concept of public ownership.


‘I cannot see why the public should pay for failed private companies,’ Keith says. ‘There used to be complaints about inefficiency of public services – but so long as they are private there appears to be no criticism at all!’


The union points out that before rail privatisation, the level of subsidy was £1.2 billion a year. Today that figure is £6.3 billion a year. ‘Is this supposed to be progress?’ Keith demands.

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