LondonNet News Headlines
13/03/01
Optimism Over Tube Talks
- Mayor and Chancellor set to agree deal

PEACE is set to be declared on the Tube with London Mayor Ken Livingstone and Chancellor Gordon Brown close to a compromise deal over funding for the Underground network.

Months of name-calling and broken down talks gave way over the weekend to rare optimism when it emerged that Brown was willing to relent on two key issues. First, Livingstone placeman Bob Kiley will have hire and fire powers over the top management installed under the government's proposed privatisation scheme. Second, Kiley will be handed the bulk of any subsidy going, thought to total UKP15 million over eight years, to be invested in infrastructure and safety measures.

In return, Livingstone will agree to call off his threatened court action over privatisation and will accept that private firms will take over the day to day running of most of the network. Livingstone and Kiley are said to believe that their proposed powers over top level staffing and the new money will be enough to ameliorate the worst aspects of privatisation such as a fragmentation of the network that could hit safety, as in the case of British Rail.

That won't be the end of the Tube trials, however. On one side, companies bidding to run the Underground have already made clear their opposition to being told what to do by Kiley; on the other, rail unions and the majority of London voters who elected Livingstone on an anti-privatisation ticket, still believe the safest and most efficient method of operating a metro system is to do so under direct local government control, as with all of the best systems in mainland Europe.




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