How big a hole depends on who you talk to. Tube Lines said they needed £7.2bn to carry out work such as upgrades to the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines, station refurbishments and providing step-free access. TfL did sums of their own and told Tube Lines they could have £4.1bn. Eventually the PPP arbiter stopped the playground squabble and set the costs at £5.5bn - but there's still no word about where the extra £1.4bn will come from.
This is all coming to a head now because contract negotiations are under way for Tube Lines' second period of work and they kind of want to know how much they're going to get paid. Costs have risen and TfL's mooted £2.4bn of "efficiency savings" look like a pipe dream. The Mayor wants the government to fund the shortfall, the government are refusing, others suggest TfL should borrow the cash at preferential public sector rates... it's a bloody mess, to be honest.
And if the money can't be found? Well, with
capacity demand on the three deep level lines Tube Lines are responsible for predicted to increase between 20-33% by 2014, it means a lot more time spent with your face in someone's sweaty armpit, more stations closed for overcrowding, more breakdowns as trains and track get older and creakier. All coming to a head in time for the Olympics. And this is before we start adding in the stuff Metronet left unfinished! Maybe we should just hope the London bike hire scheme overcomes its own funding wobbles; at this rate it'll be by far the most pleasant and reliable way to get around.