Politics: Prescott wins pounds 300m bonus to bring Tube up to scratch before sale

THE LONDON Underground is to receive more than pounds 300m in additional cash to upgrade the ailing network in the run-up to the sale of the capital's track and stations.

According to a pre-arranged pact, Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, will make it clear in his Budget speech today that the money was won by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister. Mr Prescott will take the political stage on Thursday to outline his plans partially to privatise the Tube. He is expected to say that the network will be broken up into two or three infrastructure companies and then leased to the private sector for 20 years.

In the most plausible scenario, "subsurface" lines - the Circle, District, Metropolitan, Hammersmith and City - will form one franchise and the deep lines - the Victoria, Piccadilly, Jubilee, Central, Northern and Bakerloo - will form another, or be split into two.

Railtrack, which owns the nation's track and stations, will be allowed to bid for the whole system, raising the spectre of a private monopoly in place of a public one. Mr Prescott, however, is keen not the let that happen.

Today's budget will make good some of the cuts imposed by the previous administration. In the last Conservative budget, London Transport's spending was cut from pounds 920m in 1996/97 to pounds 150m in the year beginning 1999. LT has also had to absorb about pounds 500m extra costs from the delayed Jubilee Line Extension (JLE).

In order to alleviate some of the short-term cash shortages, Mr Prescott has wrung the funding from the Treasury. There will be pounds 100m for next year and pounds 200m for 1999. Tight Treasury constraints have been bent - which will see money saved this year added to the next 12 months' budget - yielding at least another pounds 70m for the Tube. The Chancellor may also write off some the JLE's extra costs.

The money is desperately needed for the crumbling network. Mr Prescott has accepted that any reorganisation will need to raise pounds 7bn to bring the system up to scratch.

The Deputy Prime Minister needs to tread carefully. He has had to placate the left by annoying Labour's modernising faction - by bandying phrases such as "publicly owned and publicly accountable" - while requiring new Labour's high priests to endorse his plans.

The result is a compromise. So train operations will be kept in the public sector - until they fail the public's aspirations. Then they can be sold off. Mr Prescott will also need to deal with criticism (already made by some trade unionists) that the private-public deal will fragment the Tube.

And Whitehall advisors are already hatching ways to diffuse one political time-bomb: City fees. Mr Prescott has been warned that a Tube sell-off could cost pounds 100m in advisors' costs.

Travellers face disruption on London Underground next week because of a one-day strike by guards. Members of the Rail Maritime and Transport union who work on the Northern Line will walk out on 26 March over the abolition of guards' jobs as the service switches to one- person operation later this year.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk