Legal wrangle over £10m bill for Northern Line fiasco

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The Independent Online

The recent shutdown of one of London's busiest Tube routes has sparked a legal battle over who should pay millions of pounds in compensation.

The argument is between lawyers working for the state-owned London Underground, which runs the trains, the consortium Tube Lines, which is responsible for the infrastructure, and the French-owned sub-contractor Alstom.

Drivers refused to operate trains on the Northern line because of problems with the emergency braking system. The cost of the closure of the line last week has been put at £10m, which includes lost revenue, compensation, staff time and business losses because of workers arriving late.

London Underground is expected to argue that Tube Lines, owned by Amey and Bechtel, is responsible for the problem because it is in overall charge of maintenance and the infrastructure. But Tube Lines will argue that Alstom, which is responsible for maintaining the trains, should take its share of responsibility, as should the unions for backing their drivers' refusal to work and London Underground for acquiescing in their action.

Lawyers are expected to argue for months over which organisation should take the blame. Sources in the industry said the complex public private partnership in control of the Tube system was to blame for the expected clash over who pays for the cost of the disruption.

Terry Morgan, the chief executive of Tube Lines, told the London Assembly's transport committee yesterday the contract for maintaining Northern line trains, which was awarded 10 years ago, was "flawed".

Mr Morgan said 60 per cent of failures on the line were down to the state of the train fleet and revealed the emergency trip cock at the centre of last week's problems was installed 12 years ago as a temporary measure.

Roger Evans, the committee chairman, said the Northern Line incident had been a "sad state of affairs".