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banner Tuesday, 3 October, 2000, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK
Citizen Ken gets two out of 10
"We elected a mayor who hadn't thought about transport policy till his backside hit the mayoral chair" Steve Norris informed the Bow Group and Corporation of London-sponsored meeting, entitled The First Hundred Days of Power for the Mayor of London.

Ken Livingstone's mayoral transport manifesto was nothing more than a "series of vague and incoherent generalisations," Mr Norris told a meeting on the fringe of the Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth on Monday.

As a result, he added, transport policy for London had had to be built "from the ground up."

Life under Ken

Describing himself as a transport "anorak" who wanted "London to work," Mr Norris said he felt it his duty to make sure that Ken was properly informed about the real needs of London's transport system.

As chairman of a London bus operator, he argued, he was well placed to do just that.

"Life under Ken" said Mr Norris, referring to his work with London's mayor on the city's new transport body, had been "quite an experience." Though Mr Livingstone had "a marvellous way with a funny line," Mr Norris said, he gave him no more than "two out of ten" for his ideas about transforming London's bus service.

"Roads for the rich"

The former minister for transport in London was equally critical of other areas of Mr Livingstone's transport policy. Congestion charging was, he said, no more than a "roads for the rich" policy, "brought to you by Citizen Ken".

The scheme ran the risk of depriving the less well off of their cars, Mr Norris warned, whilst the wealthy continued to drive around London unaffected. "Those who will not be able to afford to pay are precisely those for who the car is a lifeline," he said.

In addition to hitting the wallets of poorer drivers, Mr Norris argued, congestion charging would not deliver less crowded roads. Instead, he said, it would "simply encourage people to divert" as traffic was displaced into areas where congestion charging did not apply.

Moscow does it better

Mr Norris then turned his critical eye to London's tube system: "We struggle to run 25 trains an hour," he complained, "Moscow runs forty without a computer in sight. No government since the war has spent enough money on renewing the underground system."

Clearly determined to make Mr Livingstone the butt of as much sarcasm as possible, he said of his plans for a public-private partnership on the underground: "Ken actually thinks who owns the system is more important than the quality of service it offers."

On Mr Livingstone's plans to seek a judicial review of the proposed public-private partnership scheme, Mr Norris again pulled no punches.

"London will get nothing while lawyers get richer," he said, "Londoners should know where the blame for that lies." He had a "real fear" that "paralysis" threatened the tube system "within 18 months or two years," he concluded.

  • Speaking to BBC News Online after the meeting, Mr Norris denied that he felt increasingly side-lined in a party that has recently been criticised by former members for intolerance on issues such as sexual preference and immigration.

    The Tories had realised that "inclusivity was the name of the game" he said. Whether they "agree with me on principle, or for tactical reasons," Mr Norris mused, "they've realised they can't win [the next election] by appealing to a small group of people."

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