Today marks the beginning of the end for the long-running and bitter debate over future funding of the London Underground.
The board of London Transport will announce whether the bids to run the Tube are safe and provide value for money, Stephen Byers will make a statement to the House and an Ernst and Young report into the viability of the public private partnership will be published.
The curtain is at last coming down on a two-year row that has involved all the major players of the British political stage and exasperated the Tube-using public.
Behind the scenes the whole mess has been witnessed at first hand by Jay Walder, the American managing director of finance and performance at Transport for London, Ken Livingstone’s transport authority.
Walder was brought over by Bob Kiley, his former boss from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to provide the financial clout to Livingstone and Kiley’s plans for a bond issue.
Along with Kiley, he has been credited with turning round the fortunes of the New York subway. The belief among many was that he would be allowed to do the same here but no-one told Walder about the Treasury.
Bob, Ken and Jay have been locked in battle with the Chancellor’s department for the past two years with the government refusing to hand over control of the Tube before a PPP is in place.
It has been a tough introduction to the idiosyncracies of British politics for the former lecturer in public policy at Harvard.
But it must seem fairly gentle compared to New York. There they take their transport issues so seriously that opponents of the city’s transport policy shot a former boss of Walder’s – twice.
The £200,000 annual salary and a four-year contract must also help calm Walder’s nerves. He spent 12 years at the New York MTA where he rose from the position of budget analyst to executive director and chief financial officer.
Since the mid-1990s he has worked with Senator Daniel Moynihan – once described as the most intellectually gifted American politician since Abraham Lincoln – to produce a sterling and annual tome, ‘The Federal Budget and the States’.
He has also been visiting professor to the National University of Singapore.
Described as driven and clever by colleagues, there are some who believe the father of three will be the man to take over from the ageing Bob Kiley. That might depend on if he wants the job.
And that could all depend on whether the government pulls the plug on PPP and adopts Walder’s preferred bond option.
By the end of today we should know.
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