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Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 22:09 GMT 23:09 UK
MPs demand Tube statement
Tube strike
Underground workers walked out over safety fears
MPs from all the main parties have demanded a statement on the controversial future of the Tube after a strike by Underground workers caused chaos in the capital.

The Commons has heard calls for a chance to grill deputy prime minister John Prescott on the continuing deadlock over Tube funding "as a matter of urgency".


Bob Kiley is a world class transport manager who is being blocked from running the Underground

Ken Livingstone
Mayor of London
The government has become entangled in a bitter war of words with London Transport Commissioner Bob Kiley over its proposed public-private partnership (PPP).

Now MPs are increasing pressure on ministers to resolve the issue after RMT union workers staged a 24-hour walk-out over safety fears about the partial privatisation.

And in a further development, New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani has come to the defence of Mr Kiley after Transport Minister Keith Hill questioned his safety record.

In a surprise attack on the revered transport commissioner, who headed New York's subway in the 1980s, Mr Hill told BBC's London Live: "When Mr Kiley finished as the controller... the rate of injuries was 40 times that on the London Underground right now."

But now Mayor Guiliani has hit back, his spokesman describing Mr Kiley as "an incredible asset to New York City".

Uncertainty

In the Commons, senior Labour backbencher Gwyneth Dunwoody said the continuing uncertainty over the Underground was "not helpful".

Arguing that people wanted "a very clear statement" on the progress of the PPP, the chair of the transport select committee described Mr Kiley as "a most talented and remarkable man".

She said: "His advice should be taken because it is in the interests of the passengers."

Shadow Commons leader Angela Browning pointed out that the original deadline for the completion of the PPP tendering process was March 1999.

Ms Browning demanded that MPs be kept informed of the government's plans, and said it was "now a matter of urgency that Mr Prescott comes to the House and allows the House to question him on this very important subject".

Minister Margaret Beckett promised to draw the MPs' remarks to the attention of Mr Prescott, who she said would continue to work to resolve the deadlock.

Bob Kiley
Mr Kiley has described the PPP as "flawed from the beginning"
"The government has been striving very heartily to try to get agreement about the future for London Underground, but unfortunately it has not yet proved possible to resolve all the difficulties," the Commons leader said.

Transport for London (TfL), the authority headed by Mr Kiley, has instructed lawyers to prepare for court action in an attempt to prevent the PPP going ahead.

TfL has threatened to seek a judicial review of the plans unless a last minute deal is struck giving Mr Kiley unified management control of tube services, maintenance and infrastructure.

The PPP was criticised by the transport commissioner as "flawed from the beginning", and both he and Mayor Ken Livingstone have warned it will endanger lives.

'Slanging match'

Mr Kiley is credited with leading a turnaround in the New York subway as chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority between 1984 and 1990.

Responding to Mr Hill's attack on his transport commissioner, Mr Livingstone accused the government of starting a "slanging match" with New York, saying "it cannot be good for tourism or international good will".

Highlighting the support of Mr Guiliani, Mr Livingstone said: "Bob Kiley is a world class transport manager who is being blocked from running the Underground by the refusal of the British government to let him control maintenance of the system".

Meanwhile TfL statisticians have estimated that London workers forced by the strike to commute by foot have burnt off an extra 24 million calories.

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See also:

30 Mar 01 | UK
Tube services resume
13 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Prescott's Tube plan 'fatally flawed'
28 Mar 01 | UK Politics
New attack launched in Tube battle
27 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Legal challenge to Tube plans
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