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Read the signals on Tube trouble


THE VERY public admission by London Underground contractor Metronet that its modernisation of the capital's Tube system has gone horribly wrong is refreshing.

While it would be tempting to blame a steep learning curve and early mobilisation problems, Metronet has gone to work on its cumbersome management structure.

Some politicians, notably London's mayor Ken Livingstone, have jumped on this as evidence of the private sector's failure. In fact, it illustrates how quickly private companies can react to nip problems in the bud.

The task of modernising the capital's creaking underground network was never going to be straightforward. Some of the difficulties stem simply from the fact that bidders were not given sufficient time to assess its condition.

The real challenge is to sort out the overly bureaucratic working practices that prevent contractors getting on with the job.This is where Transport for London needs to take a critical look at its own decision making.

The challenges for London Underground are like those that faced Network Rail.These were not solved until the client took the tough decision to opt for long-term rail blockades, letting contractors get on with their work.