The thing which really annoys me, though, is when people blame Ken Livingstone, Tim O’Toole, Metronet or Tubelines for the system failures.
Between 1945 and 2000, with the exception of the absolutely-necessary-to-avoid-gridlock Victoria Line, the half-arsed-compromise Jubilee Line, and the Thatcher’s-Docklands-project-must-succeed Jubilee extension, there was no investment in the Underground system. None.
Central government skimped on the money for essential maintenance, and didn’t make any money available for capital projects such as major line or signalling upgrades. London was a declining city and the train was a declining transport mode - cars and suburbs were the way forward.
So anyone who blames the people in charge of the Tube for its state today is simply wrong. Ken, the current government, LUL’s current management and the infracos are the first people since the days of the London Passenger Transport Board in the 1930s to embark on a serious programme of upgrades to the underground. This isn’t necessarily because they’re all wonderful people, just that people have suddenly noticed that London is growing again and the private car is not a viable means of transport within London.
Quite correct, of course, which is why anyone who thinks that central government should run anything, even an infrastructure monopoly, is an idiot. The vast Tube investment is partly due, as John says, to the fact that cars are not viable, but also because the system had got to such a point of decrepitude that money absolutely had to be put in to stop the whole thing grinding to a halt.
And as Metronet have found, the state of disrepair had been heavily underestimated; the result is that most programmes are severely behind schedule as more urgent repairs are uncovered. Although none of this makes any difference to my irritation at this weekend's closure of the southern section of the Victoria Line, naturally: thank fuck there is a good bus service (especially as this is going on for at least the next six months [PDF])...
Oh, and it is also worth noting that much of the above is also true for the rest of the country's rail network.