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Sunday, 3 February, 2002, 01:41 GMT
Mayor warns on Tube safety
Tube train
Ken Livingstone fears lives will be jeopardised
A tragedy worse than Hatfield could happen on the London Underground if proposals to partially privatise the Tube go ahead, Mayor Ken Livingstone has warned.

The London mayor's condemnation of a public private partnership for running London Underground came at a reception at Labour's spring conference in Cardiff on Saturday.

The horror of the Hatfield rail crash could be magnified on the London Underground

Mayor Ken Livingstone
And with his comments he entered the fray in a row that has erupted this weekend between the unions and the government about plans to reform public services.

Transport Secretary Stephen Byers is due to announce the results of a report into three contracts being considered to run the Tube next month.

Dire warning

But Mr Livingstone warned: "Each of these contracts fills 15 four-drawer filing cabinets.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone
Mr Livingstone: Hatfield lessons must be learned
"All we will see in the coming days is lawyers arguing about these contracts.

"And they will be arguing about the contracts as we haul bodies out of the underground.

"The horror of the Hatfield rail crash could be magnified on the London Underground".

The mayor of London's proposal for a bond scheme to raise 13bn for improvements will be compared with private public partnership (PPP) bids.

Mr Livingstone told his audience that the government should learn the lessons of Hatfield and give him control of the Underground.

He claimed he would be able to improve it, in the way he claims he has increased use of the buses in London over the past year.

Mr Byers said last month that the plan offering the best value would be adopted.

The transport secretary has already met fierce opposition at the spring conference from unions after a speech about the use of private investment to modernise schools and hospitals.

Mr Byers said the fight for public services would be a battle between the "reformers and the wreckers".

'Another poll tax'

But his speech met with an angry reaction from union leaders, with one warning that the government's reform plans could turn into Labour's poll tax.

GMB union leader John Edmonds argued that polls showed that only 11% of Britons supported privatisation of public services.

"The highest level of support recorded for the poll tax was 14%," he said.

In his speech, Mr Byers called comparisons between the Conservatives' privatisation of the rail network and the Labour government's plans for PPPs "wrong and misleading".

He also defended putting Railtrack into administration saying it had been the inevitable consequences of a "failed" privatisation.

He said the company's failure to maintain the track had caused the Hatfield rail crash, in which four people died and dozens were injured.

See also:

02 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Unions erupt in public services row
16 Jan 02 | England
Tube plan 'must be good value'
30 Jul 01 | UK
Mayor loses Tube challenge
29 Mar 01 | UK Politics
MPs demand Tube statement
28 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Tories deny U-turn over Tube sale
13 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Prescott's Tube plan 'fatally flawed'
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