Tube unions blame Treasury for plans

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The Independent Online
UNION LEADERS who have threatened strike action in protest at the part-privatisation of London Underground yesterday attacked the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, for not standing up to the Treasury over the transport system's financing.

The general secretaries of the RMT and Aslef, the two biggest unions on the network, said that Mr Prescott was "incapable" of holding his own against Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Jimmy Knapp of the RMT and Mike Rix of Aslef said that the Chancellor rather than Mr Prescott was the driving force behind the "public-private partnership" which they believe will lead to a worse service, higher fares and more taxation.

Mr Prescott has attempted to distance himself from the beleaguered London Underground management, accusing them of "making a mess" of engineering works which have led to the closure of the whole Circle Line.

The RMT has mounted a series of strikes to ensure its members are not forced to accept allegedly inferior contracts under private ownership, and Aslef has warned of stoppages if any of its members is transferred to the private sector. The London Underground unions yesterday launched a campaign to resist part-privatisation, arguing instead for keeping the system in full public ownership and issuing bonds to raise extra funds.

Mr Prescott's aides said that the plan under which parts of the system would be leased out to the private sector was the best method of ensuring additional investment. An aide said that London Underground was competing with schools and hospitals for more money and that Mr Prescott had resisted pressure to privatise the whole system, or leave its future up to the new London mayor.