Budget Aftermath: Tube projects face further delay

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SEVERAL projects on the London Underground will suffer further delay as a result of the Government's failure to provide extra funding in Tuesday's Budget, London Transport's chiefs said yesterday, writes Christian Wolmar.

Sir Wilfrid Newton, chairman of London Transport, said the settlement was 'very disappointing'. LT was allocated pounds 900m in the statement but over half, pounds 527m, would go on new projects, the Jubilee Line extension and CrossRail.

LT was slightly mollified when the Department of Transport clarified yesterday that London Transport would be guaranteed pounds 75m from the sale of London Buses, even if it did not raise that amount, which at least would guarantee LT pounds 450m for investment this year. Nevertheless, Sir Wilfrid said this was 'about half of what we need to create a decently modern metro'.

After spending on buses, London Underground would have about pounds 400m to invest this year, while a report published earlier this year by the Centre for Economics and Business Research argued that a 10-year programme of investment of pounds 900m a year would allow the Underground to become self-financing.

Sir Wilfrid said that the Government had repeatedly broken promises to provide more cash. 'It is increasingly difficult to choose which projects should be undertaken and which should be delayed.'

The settlement means that there is no cash to begin the major pounds 900m refurbishment of the Northern Line. No starting dates can even be considered for projects like the pounds 120m East London line extension, or the pounds 2bn Chelsea to Hackney line. On the buses, the introduction of the passenger information system 'Countdown', which gives the expected arrival time of the next bus, is likely to be delayed.

Dennis Tunnicliffe, managing director of London Underground, said: 'We are going to have to concentrate on things that the passengers never notice, like drainage, embankments and power supply.'