Tube ‘soap opera’ – a new episode

While it lasted, the soap opera chronicling the last months of the public-private partnership (PPP) to refurbish London’s underground rail system was thoroughly engaging.

A lot of the entertainment value came from picking up a free newspaper on the way to the ‘tube’ – as London’s underground system is known – and reading Mayor Boris Johnson’s latest colourful proclamations. He memorably described the PPP’s “Byzantine” structure and said it was something that “would be called looting in other countries”.

It was a sad day when the whole saga ended with the relatively prosaic buyout of the private sector parties by the public authorities. But perhaps we wept its loss too early, since the London authorities have just announced that they intend to sue law firm Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer for close to £142 million (€162 million; $232 million). The charge? “Alleged negligence” according to Building magazine’s website.

Specifically, the authorities are claiming that a “negligently worded contract approved by Freshfields” forced them to pay an extra £178.5 million when Metronet, one of the two original private partners involved in the PPP, went bust in 2007. Since it only managed to recover £36.5 million of that extra payment, it is suing the law firm for the remaining £141.96 million, Building writes. Freshfields denies the accusation.

To date, we have been unable to identify any quotes from Mayor Johnson on this fresh round of jostling. But we are sure that, once they arrive, they will not disappoint.