Derek Smith

The managing director and chairman of London Underground responds to an article by Ken Livingstone about safety on the Tube
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The Independent Online

It may come as a surprise to those relishing a public squabble ("The safety signals on the Tube that can no longer be ignored", 29 August), but Ken Livingstone and I yesterday found ourselves vehemently agreeing on the overarching importance of safety on the Tube.

It may come as a surprise to those relishing a public squabble ("The safety signals on the Tube that can no longer be ignored", 29 August), but Ken Livingstone and I yesterday found ourselves vehemently agreeing on the overarching importance of safety on the Tube.

Understandably, he is concerned that the Public Private Partnership (PPP) may be importing undue risk into the system. My job is clear: to make sure that does not happen and that risks are controlled - whatever their cause.

London Underground safety is driven through a process of continual review and improvement that has brought enormous advances to the culture of safety permeating the organisation.

Improvements must be dynamic and progressive. They also need to be constantly tested and audited. The immediate lessons of Paris yesterday are the same as the long-term lessons of King's Cross 13 years ago, namely, that safety cannot be taken for granted.

While it is encouraging to note that the level of risk and fatality on the Tube now is 11 times lower than a decade ago, there is no room for complacency. That is why it is so important that we continue the robust dialogue with our safety regulators. This dialogue is all too fleetingly being exposed to public scrutiny on the back of the PPP debate.

Responsibility for the operational safety of London Underground will remain in the public sector and with me. I am in charge of safety, and my team will continue to work closely with Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate. As long as that scrutiny continues - in public or in private - I will continue to feel comfortable about looking my customers in the eye as I travel alongside them on the Underground today, tomorrow and in future.

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