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Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 23:56 GMT
Livingstone anger at Tube go-ahead
Tube train
Mr Blair has recommended the PPP plans
London mayor Ken Livingstone is considering possible legal action in an effort to halt the part-privatisation of the Tube.

In a blistering attack on the government's plans, Mr Livingstone said the public private partnership (PPP) scheme was unsafe, expensive and would eventually cost lives.


If there is any way we can go back to court to stop this we will, because I believe Londoners' lives are at risk

Ken Livingstone
But he vowed to "stay and fight" should PPP go ahead.

He faced Transport Secretary Stephen Byers on BBC Two's Newsnight after a day in which the minister got a rough ride from Tory, Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs as he defended his decision to back PPP.

Mr Byers has claimed it is the best way to attract the 16bn of new investment he says is needed to revamp the crumbling transport system and provide faster and safer trains.

Mr Byers said an Ernst & Young review provided evidence that the plan represented value for money.

Legal challenge

But Mr Livingstone, who together with transport commissioner Bob Kiley will eventually take over the running of the system, urged a rethink.

"If there is any way we can go back to court to stop this we will, because I believe Londoners' lives are at risk," he told BBC News.

He claimed that Ernst and Young had a conflict of interest and that its report had been based on subjective information.

Transport commissioner Bob Kiley
Mr Kiley: PPP 'nightmare version of Railtrack'
Every independent study into the PPP had pointed out how expensive and potentially unsafe it was, he added.

He also attacked the government for "stifling debate" for not allowing himself or Mr Kiley access to crucial documents on the deal until Monday.

Mr Livingstone wants a bond scheme to finance 13bn of improvements to the ailing network.

There will now be a three week consultation period. If the decision is confirmed there would then be a three month handover period.

Later Mr Livingstone told Newsnight: ""If we can find grounds for stopping this happening we will."

But he added that if this was not possible: "I will try my best to make it work. I don't think it's safe."

However Mr Byers reiterated his position.

"This is not privatisation. London Underground will remain in public ownership. Safety will not be compromised," he told the programme.

And he said he would not let vested interests stand in the way of delivering investment in London Underground.

Shadow transport minister Eric Pickles, during exchanges in the Commons on Thursday, said the "off balance deal" bore "all the hallmarks" of Mr Byers - "It's wildly optimistic, it completely disregards dangers".

Arrogance

Pointing to the 1900 timing of the statement, he said that was a time used for matters of war or catastrophe and added: "This is the first time that an impending catastrophe has been made at seven o'clock."

For the Liberal Democrats, Tom Brake said: "This represents for the Labour Party their poll tax on wheels and it is going to haunt them for 30 years."

Labour MP Diane Abbott said imposing the plan against the wishes of Londoners showed "breathtaking arrogance".

MPs on the transport committee this week warned PPP would lead to costly contract disputes.

And transport commissioner Bob Kiley has also warned against PPP.

He predicted safety problems, managerial chaos, staff tensions and possible legal action.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Simon Montague
"The government's plans continues to meet... resistance"
Transport Secretary Stephen Byers
"London Underground will retain control"
Mayor of London Ken Livingstone
"This is an outrage"
Bob Crow, RMT union
"It is a very black day"

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The Kiley Factor

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See also:

05 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Tube plans attacked by MPs
02 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Unions erupt in public services row
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