Tube line faces 12-month delay

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The Independent Online
The Jubilee Line extension, the pounds 2.6bn rail project which will link Westminster to east London and introduce a host of new stations in the capital, will be delayed by up to 12 months, it has been confirmed.

The announcement of a delay has been widely anticipated since a tunnel collapse in 1994 stopped work for six months, although London Transport had until this week insisted that the JLE would open on time in March next year.

The delay also saw a simmering feud between London Transport and the Government over the funding of the Tube break out into the open. The Department of Transport's spin doctors had suggested in media briefings that spending on the extension was out of control, and suggested that this fact had contributed to the Government's decision to privatise the Tube.

However, in a meeting on Tuesday described as "frosty", civil servants admitted to London Underground bosses that the DoT briefings had been "poorly drafted".

The Government and LT disagreed on the actual length of the delay to the service. Peter Ford, LT's chairman, had intended to announce a six- month delay this week, but Sir George Young, the Secretary of State for Transport, intervened when his advisers said a longer delay might occur.

The extension includes a new station at the site of the planned Millennium celebrations in Greenwich and a substantial delay will prove a headache for the next government.

Born in 1989 of Margaret Thatcher's plans for Docklands regeneration, the JLE was designed to carry stockbrokers from Waterloo station to the gleaming towers of Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs. Work only started on the project in 1993.

The 11-mile-long extension has already seen its funding increase from pounds 1.9bn to pounds 2.5bn. But the delays have been caused by a range of unrelated problems including the complexity of building a new stationunder the Houses of Parliament. Trains running under the Palace of Westminster are subject to strict speed limits to prevent vibration.

The extra cost, expected to top pounds 280m, will be shouldered by London Transport - which has just seen ministers cut its grant by pounds 430m for the next three years.