Mixed reaction to Tory plans

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The Independent Online
Tory plans to privatise the Tube received a mixed reaction from London travellers yesterday.

Passengers on the District Line at Bow Road in the East End echoed Labour sentiments that a privatised network would soon collapse, as public assets were sold cheaply and investment delayed.

Michael Shneck, 23, a marketing assistant, believed the policy would kill off the Government's re-election hopes. "If they privatise the system, investment will slowly dry up, and when that happens the tube will probably end up closing down altogether," he said.

The Government was simply passing the buck, said Alexander Middleton, 79, from Whitechapel. "The plans stink. They have let the service become so run down over the years, that now the only thing they can do is relinquish all responsibility for it.

"They have got all the money in the world for guns and bullets, but when it comes to simple things that the public want investment in, like the Underground and NHS, they have nothing."

In the City, where stations are generally cleaner and services more frequent than in the suburbs, passengers were less scathing of the Tory plans. Rush-hour professionals generally agreed that if investment was guaranteed, then privatisation might be a solution - especially as London Underground is faced with budget cuts of pounds 700m over the next three years.

Lucy Green, 29, a merchant banker, said the problem with private ownership is that assets are sold off too cheaply. "If they could ensure money was put back into the system then it might work. "But surely the end result of a scheme like this is that a few individuals end up making more money for themselves," she said.

Constance Abeng, 25, a post-graduate student, said the Tube had deteriorated in the last few years. "Why can't the Government find the money to update the system themselves. I preferred it seven years ago when it was a cheap, effective and simple way to travel."

At the end of the line in the Tory heartland of Richmond, travellers gave their blessing to the Government's policy, as they saw private enterprise as the last hope for the service.

John Irvine, a manager at BT, said: "If that is what it takes then it is a good thing. I think the Underground does its job, and compared to other countries we have a good system - but there is certainly room for improvement."

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