Amey confident Tube PPP will get go-ahead

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The Independent Online

Amey, one of the contractors bidding to take over parts of London Underground, maintained yesterday that the Government would give the go-ahead for the controversial public-private partnership (PPP) by the end of this month.

There has been growing speculation that Stephen Byers, the Secretary of State for Transport, is preparing to do a U-turn and keep part of the Tube network under public control.

But Amey, which is a member of the Tube Lines consortium, the Government's preferred bidder for the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines, said it was confident that the PPP remained "very firmly on course". The company added that it expected the Department for Transport to endorse the Tube Lines bid as representing value for money by the end of January and sign definitive contracts with the consortium in late February.

Brian Staples, chief executive of Amey, said: "My confidence is based on the fact that the Government's political commitment to the PPP is rock solid."

He also said that Ken Livingstone's transport commissioner for London, Bob Kiley, would be "pretty appalled" if the Government went down the rumoured route of keeping the Jubilee, Piccadilly and Northern lines under public ownership while part-privatising the rest of the network.

Mr Staples said he was confident that Mr Byers' treatment of Railtrack would not damage future private funding for the railways. But he warned that the £67bn of investment set out this week in the Strategic Rail Authority's 10-year rail plan would almost certainly be inadequate to meet the needs of the network. "I would be surprised if it comes anywhere near what has to be spent. The amount that needs to be invested just to keep the existing assets operating over the next few years is unknown."

Mr Staples also said Railtrack needed to be removed from administration at the earliest opportunity which meant the Government reaching a settlement with the company's shareholders.

Amey is one of Railtrack's biggest maintenance contractors, with orders worth about £150m a year. It is currently negotiating an extension to its contract to maintain the Great Western zone. The contract, which is worth £80m a year, expires at the end of March.

In a trading statement, Amey said it expected to report full-year results in line with market forecasts and said that 2002 would be another year of "significant progress".