When Terry Morgan took the helm at Tube Lines, he thought he would be running part of the London Underground in a matter of weeks. Then the legal challenges began … Phil Clark finds out how the former international rugby player has been using his extra time.
when Terry Morgan arrived at the tube Lines consortium in January, it was expecting to take over the Jubilee, Piccadilly and Northern lines of London Underground in the spring. Instead, the former Welsh rugby wing-forward found himself caught up in a series of protracted legal scrums. The public–private partnership is now due to be (one should never say will be) signed in the autumn.

Since joining Tube Lines, Morgan has watched the dispute between London mayor Ken Livingstone and the government unfold, culminating in defeat for Livingstone at the High Court last month, and a legal bill to City Hall thought to be in the region of £4m. Understandably, these events have left the quietly spoken Morgan frustrated. And the speedy construction of the office blocks outside his 29th-floor Canary Wharf office emphasises the snail's pace of developments below ground. "Nobody had an idea that it would take this long. We've been ready to start since April," he admits.

Morgan, 53, has taken one of the most difficult jobs in construction. For one thing he has to fill the shoes of the respected Iain Coucher, who was lured to Railtrack's replacement Network Rail at the turn of the year. For another, he has to persuade London Underground staff that private does not equal evil. After that, it is simply a question of convincing Livingstone and his transport chief Bob Kiley that the PPP, rather than their bond idea, is the way to revitalise the crumbling system. With characteristic, and diplomatic, understatement, Morgan sums up the task ahead: "The attraction of the job was the uniqueness of it. I realised it had a few challenges."

One thing in his favour is that he is coming to the post fresh – he was formerly group managing director of operations at defence giant BAE Systems. He is now looking to draw a line under the lengthy spat with Livingstone. "Our wish is that, once we have gone through financial close, we are able to work together to deliver an outstanding Tube for London," he says, keeping to the script. "We have a lot of money to spend – we want to spend it on the Underground, not on lengthy arguments. Our wish is that we can put the events of the past three to four years behind us."

Morgan wants to extend the peace, love and understanding to rail union RMT, which, under the leadership of leftwinger Bob Crow, went on strike last month over fears that the PPP could compromise safety. "Our shareholders have companies working very closely with RMT. I expect to get into a constructive dialogue with them," he says.

As well as the problems with the union and the Greater London Authority, there have been plenty of question marks over the constituent members of Tube Lines. Amey and Jarvis have both been the subject of recent press attention: Amey as a result of its accountancy troubles and Jarvis for its maintenance record after the Potters Bar rail crash in June.

But Morgan is not daunted. "I do not have any concerns," he says, adding that there is a fundamental separation between his role as chief executive of Tube Lines, and the firms that make up the consortium. "One of the things that is quite important about my role is that I'm not employed by Amey, Jarvis or Bechtel, but by Tube Lines. That is my priority."

We’ve got a lot of money to spend – we want to spend it on the Underground, not on lengthy arguments

Morgan has a list of targets that Tube Lines has to meet, such as increasing the capacity of the Jubilee Line by 40% in the first seven and a half years of the contract, but he is most at homes discussing the challenge of leading LU staff disorientated by the continuing wrangling over the scheme. "All they are seeing at the moment is change. People are saying we have all this money to invest but they want to feel they are valued over what they can contribute to the programme."

He says his experience has given him a good grounding in "people" issues – he was human resources director at BAE during its merger with GEC-Marconi Electronic Systems in 1999. In this regard he shares similarities with former colleague and friend Robin Southwell, who left BAE last year to take over the helm at Atkins (a shareholder in the other Tube consortium, Metronet).

"I say this time and time again – the real model about whether this will work comes from leadership," Morgan says. "We have to reinforce our values across to the staff. If our team doesn't behave consistently why should anybody else?"

The safety of his workforce is also clear in his mind. "One of the first things I was shown by London Underground was a video of the King's Cross fire," he recounts. "I had a pretty thorough going-through in terms of understanding the importance of safety."

So what does Morgan feel about the legendary complexity of the deal, famously described by Kiley last year as "the most complicated contract system in the history of Western civilisation"? Morgan, in part, puts the blame for this on factors outside anyone's control, such as the political controversy over the part-privatisation. This has led to the deal being struck in a "litigious environment". It has also led to jitters from City backers, who are "extremely careful" about understanding the deal.

Personal effects

What’s your journey to work like?
I get the Tube from Vauxhall to Canary Wharf. It takes me about half an hour – just enough time to read the paper. When it runs well, it’s fantastic.
Do you still have an interest in rugby?
I stopped playing when I was 47. I try to watch – my son and daughter play every weekend.
What’s your solution to the crisis in Welsh rugby?
Appoint a Welsh national coach.
If you met Ken Livingstone, what would you say?
I’d tell him exactly what the PPP was doing.