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Sunday, 29 April, 2001, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
Prescott and Livingstone clash over tube
London Underground
Mr Livingstone says safety is at stake
John Prescott has bitterly criticised London Mayor Ken Livingstone after he again went on the offensive over government policy towards the Tube.

The Tube management has been forced to take its eye off the ball

Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat
The deputy prime minister said Mr Livingstone's comments were "unjustified, unacceptable and irresponsible".

And he suggested that the mayor might have encouraged members of the RMT union to go ahead with their 24 hour strike next Thursday.

Transport Secretary Mr Prescott was speaking after Mr Livingstone had reasserted his view that goverment plans for a partial Tube sell-off would affect safety.

This is a charge rejected by ministers who say the public private partnership (PPP) would attract much-needed funds into the ailing Underground.

Mr Livingstone's Transport for London (TfL) group have issued a High Court challenge the PPP plans.

TfL is headed by former New York Subway supremo, Bob Kiley, who was appointed as London's transport commissioner by the mayor.

Mr Livingstone, who favours a bond issue instead of PPP, told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme: "If the Tube had been passed to me last year, by now we would be starting improvements works.


"As it is we are still arguing with lawyers and so on - and there is no clear sign any work will start before the end of the year, if then."

Mr Livingstone argued that the Tube was now in a worse state than he had ever known in his 55 years in the capital.

John Prescott
Mr Prescott compares the Tube safety record with New York
But Mr Prescott said London Underground's safety record was superior to those in New York and Paris.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had no "serious safety issues of concern" on the Tube.

"Any future changes either by the public-private partnerships or by the mayor will in future have to be approved by the HSE and meet its rigorous standards," Mr Prescott said.

And he argued that the planned Tube strike was not justified.

"I urge the RMT to keep talking to London Underground instead of walking out and necessarily alarming the travelling public with unjustified safety concerns."

Tom Brake, for the Liberal Democrats, said preparations for part-privatisation of the Tube had diverted resources from safety to preparing contracts.

"The Tube management has been forced to take its eye off the ball," he said.

"The government's part-privatisation circus will undoubtedly lead to more conflict between passenger safety and shareholder profit.

"The best way forward for the Tube remains a bond issue.

"It would be cheaper and faster than part-privatisation and would leave the Tube under public control."

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See also:

30 Mar 01 | UK
Tube services resume
08 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Livingstone backs tube safety strike
16 Dec 00 | UK Politics
New blow to Tube sell-off plan
11 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Government spells out Tube plans
06 Dec 00 | UK Politics
GLA rejects Tube sell-off
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