Prescott rejects Railtrack as Tube operatorPrescott U-turn leaves Railtrack off Tube ditched out of bidding to run Tube

PLANS TO hand parts of the London Underground to Railtrack have been ditched by the Government, partly because of the Paddington disaster.

The U-turn was announced last night after John Prescott, London Transport and Railtrack agreed that the scheme was not viable. The plans' collapse means that new bidders will be invited to tender for the multi-billion- pound contract to take over the sub-surface lines of the Tube.

Mr Prescott, the Secretary of State for Transport, was heavily criticised by Ken Livingstone and others when he awarded exclusive rights to rebuild the Metropolitan, Circle and District Lines to Railtrack.

The Deputy Prime Minister decided to abandon the scheme when the private- sector company could not come up with a way of integrating east-west routes in the capital.

Mr Prescott had hoped that Railtrack would be able to produce a workable project by March. When the company admitted that such a timetable was impossible, he decided to end the deal.

The Deputy Prime Minister told The Independent last night that the Paddington disaster had played a key part in his decision, as it proved that the station, through which the east-west route would pass, had to be reviewed before any new building could begin.

"The tragedy at Paddington raised the question of the layout and capacity of Paddington. The crash has raised the whole issue of the station as a vital crossroads into London, and we want to get it right," he said. "I gave Railtrack an exclusive contract because I thought they were best placed to come up with a way to integrate the lines with the rest of the rail network. They have been unable to do so." The decision was taken on the advice of Sir Alastair Morton, head of the shadow Strategic Rail Authority.

The sub-surface line contracts will now be awarded alongside all other parts of the Tube next September, with work due to start in early 2001.A separate study of plans to build a tunnel linking east and west London, with connections to Heathrow, will be made by Sir Alastair. Its conclusions should be ready within months.

The public-private partnership is the Government's flagship policy for bringing massive investment to London Underground, and is seen by Tony Blair as a classic New Labour project. But after Paddington, ministers were left in the embarrassing position of working with Railtrack on the scheme.

Mr Livingstone has made his opposition to Railtrack a central theme of his campaign to be London mayor, claiming the Tube was being privatised. By attacking one of Britain's most unloved companies, the former GLC leader forced Mr Prescott and his mayoral rival Frank Dobson on the defensive.

He is now likely to claim victory because of the U-turn, although Mr Prescott stressed the decision was not political. "My job is to run the railways, not react to what Ken says. Decisions like this cannot be taken on the basis of politics," he said.

In a statement last night, the Department of Transport stressed that the main reason for the deal's collapse was the failure to identify a practical scheme to integrate east and west London rail routes. The department said that although a viable north-south link had been drawn up, there was no "satisfactory" east-west plan.

At least two consortia have expressed an interest in running the sub- surface lines. Railtrack will now assess whether it should now bid with other firms.

Dobson's initiative, page 6

Cost of safety, page 6

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific