Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tube Talks Hit the Buffers

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tube Talks Hit the Buffers

Article excerpt

THERE IS CLEARLY a need for urgent decisions to be made about the future of the London Tube, as this newspaper has repeatedly argued. However, some of the tactics being used to force a solution suggest desperation and, as so often in this tortured saga, political posturing. There was a flurry of press reports over the weekend that Mr Bob Kiley is about to be fired as chairman of London Transport. These have been denied by the Government - and, for once, the official denials sound credible. There has been so much spin and counter spin from all parties about the details of the talks that the public can be forgiven for a sense of weary bafflement about what is going on. Plainly the talks have stalled and, if they have not entirely broken down, we are now at the endgame. Mr Stephen Byers, the new Transport Secretary who has replaced the late unlamented Mr John Prescott, is said to be frustrated that the talks are heading nowhere and wants a deal made in a hurry. Mr Kiley is still unhappy that, under the terms of the contracts he is negotiating with bidders for Public Private Partnership contracts, he will have limited control over the Underground system he will be responsible for managing. Hence the spin over the weekend about Mr Byers dispensing with Mr Kiley's services and taking over the negotiations himself - an absurd notion.

He has been in his present post barely a fortnight and cannot have mastered the complexities of the issues in that time. The Government is continuing to play politics with the Tube and betraying Londoners from ministerial vanity.

It has not moved a jot from its dogmatic insistence on forcing through PPP, as it was originally conceived, against the clear wishes of the public and against the advice of almost everybody who knows anything about transport.

Londoners deserve better from an administration that only a few days ago they helped re-elect with a a thumping majority. The Blair Government knows it will be judged on its performance on the public services. On the evidence of the first few days - at least on the continuing Tube fiasco - it is failing lamentably. …

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