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banner Tuesday, 4 April, 2000, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Candidates battle over transport

Commuters share a joke on the Tube
Ken Livingstone would put himself in direct control of London's transport policy if he becomes the city's first elected mayor, he has said.

The independent mayoral candidate told a hustings debate he would appoint himself chair of transport in the new administration.

Liberal Democrat Susan Kramer said she would make a similar move, while Tory Steve Norris and Labour candidate Frank Dobson said it was too early to make such a decision.

The debate on transport, held at the Design Council in central London, was attended by the four leading mayoral hopefuls.

The meeting was organised by the influential centre-left think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, which is arguing for a 5 a day congestion charge for cars coming into central London as a way of cutting traffic and raising cash for improving London's transport system.

Archer's idea

The IPPR is also proposing a 20mph speed limit in central London and the pedestrianisation of the busy Parliament and Trafalgar Squares.

Mr Livingstone said most of the mayoral candidates were agreed on the central issues facing London's transport system.
Steve Norris
Steve Norris: Treasury fears
But he reiterated his view that the government's plan for a public-private partnership (PPP) for funding improvements in the tube system was "fundamentally flawed" and said it could be challenged in the courts.

Mr Livingstone said he backed congestion charging and improvements to bus services to reduce congestion and pollution.

He said: "Jeffrey Archer had a great idea for high speed buses on seriously protected bus lanes.

'Fundamental rethink'

"He won't be using it, but I have stolen the idea."

Tory candidate Steve Norris - who wants to see the tube privatised - said the government was providing less cash for investment in transport than the Conservative government.
Frank Dobson
Frank Dobson: Bonds scheme could hit Londoners in pocket
He said the government's PPP proposals needed to be "fundamentally rethought" but again voiced his doubts about the bond scheme to raise cash for transport favoured by Mr Livingstone and Ms Kramer.

And he said cash raised from congestion charges would end up in the treasury's coffers rather than being spent on transport improvements.

Labour's Frank Dobson again attacked the proposals for a bond issue for the tube from Mr Livingstone and Ms Kramer, saying such a move created the risk of Londoners having to pick up the cost of delays to improvements.

He said London Underground had "scandalously wasted" 1.5bn because of overruns on the Jubilee Line Extension.

Internet technology

And he warned that a similar situation could be created under a bonds scheme for further improvements.

Ms Kramer said it was remarkable that there was no integrated transport policy for London.
Susa n Kramer
Susan Kramer: Internet can help tube users
She said the way forward for the tube was for a combination of good management and the cheapest funding possible - which she said would come from a bonds issue.

Ms Kramer attacked Mr Dobson's view that congestion charging could not be introduced in the new mayor's first term, and called for the use of internet technology to improve the supply of information about tube services.

The IPPR report said the mayor would have to raise cash for transport to ensure he or she remained independent from the government.

It wants to see a Transport for London Trust created with money raised from congestion charges, a tax on utility companies which are late in making street repairs, a London business levy and a share of fuel duty increases above inflation.

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See also:

04 Apr 00 | UK Politics
'Dirty campaign' claim in loan probe
02 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Livingstone expelled as ballots close
20 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Chris Evans 'boosts' Livingstone funds
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