Underground stations in central London and suburbs at risk under public-private partnership contracts.
Consortia bidding for the £7bn public-private partnership contracts to refurbish London Underground are considering closing some Tube stations.

Sources within two of the five bidders say they have put together a business case for closing some stations permanently and others for extended periods during the refurbishment.The news will inflame the debate over whether part-privatisation is the best way to finance the work. It comes in the same week as newly elected London mayor Ken Livingstone, who has been a fierce opponent of the PPP, appeared to soften his stance on the issue.

Stations in both cental London and on the outskirts are believed to be at risk.

The sources refused to say which stations were under threat but noted that the PPP agreement allowed them to close stations during the refurbishment if they established that the money saved would be better used on other improvements.

We are prepared to consider other ideas that would bring benefit to Londoners

DETR Spokesperson

An insider at one of the consortia said: “It is something we are considering and it is a distinct possibility. We have discussed the closure of some stations, both as part of the refurbishment programme and permanently.” He added: “The question has been discussed and will be discussed further. It is definitely up for grabs.”

Under the terms of the bidding process, the consortia must submit a standard bid for the refurbishment packages but they can also submit variant bids that could offer better value for money.

A London Underground insider said the consortia could close stations provided they could make a “good business case for doing so”.

You could close Covent Garden by making a case for improving Leicester Square

London Underground Insider

The insider said: “The case would have to be made that the fall in social benefit to Londoners by permanently shutting a station was balanced by a more efficient use of the money elsewhere on the Tube. For example, you could close Covent Garden by making a case that the money saved there could be better used improving access, signalling and rail at nearby Leicester Square.” He added that the number of stations closed during refurbishment could also be increased under the same provision.

“People behind the consortia can make the same case for shutting an entire line or stations for long periods by saying it would work out less expensive than working within restricted engineering hours and keeping them open,” said the London Underground insider.

A spokesperson for the DETR said: “The PPP is about improving the underground system and no closures are anticipated.” However, he added: “All bidders have to submit standard bids, but we are also prepared to consider other ideas that bidders might have that would bring benefit to Londoners and achieve best value.”

Mayor Livingstone had previously said he would seek a judicial review of the PPP. However, this week, he announced that he would set up an inquiry into ways of financing the refurbishment to ascertain which offered best value for money.