'£7.6bn cuts' to fund Tube upgrades

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The Independent Online

London's mayor has pledged the greatest investment in the capital's transport network in 80 years after identifying "staggering" savings and efficiencies of £7.6 billion.

Boris Johnson said that over the next four years three Tube lines will be fully upgraded, new trains will be delivered to five lines, major progress will be made on the Crossrail project, the London Overground rail network will be completed, and the capital's bike hire scheme will be extended.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union said it "defies belief" that the "cuts target" is being increased from £5 billion to £7.6 billion.

Transport for London's revised business plan will be considered by its board tomorrow, setting out plans to deal with an extra 112 million Tube passengers over the next four years.

The mayor said: "Through negotiations, savings and efficiencies, we have done what many believed to be impossible.

"We have secured the greatest investment in London's transport network in 80 years, which will deliver Crossrail, the Tube upgrades, the completion of the London Overground network and the continuation of the cycling revolution, while protecting frontline passenger and customer services.

"The staggering £7.6 billion in savings and efficiencies TfL is making means that every penny will be spent on delivering and upgrading services for the capital, providing even better value for money to fare and taxpayers."

London's transport commissioner Peter Hendy said: "The next four years will be among the busiest and most exciting in the history of London's transport network.

"We will be carrying more passengers and running more services than ever before. The Tube carried 1.1 billion passengers this year and the buses 2.2 billion, and our operational performance is on an ever-improving trend.

"This is at the same time as we carry out an unprecedented upgrade of our network and get ready to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

"We will meet all of those challenges while also ensuring we are as efficient and effective as we can be through our £7.6 billion savings programme."

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "With the Tube lurching from crisis to crisis, it defies belief that Boris Johnson and his officials are jacking up their cuts target from £5 billion to £7.6 billion.

"These new cuts will drag the Underground even deeper into the spiral of decline, with breakdowns, failures and disruption a daily fact of life.

"We can expect a threat to hundreds more jobs while maintenance takes another hit, turning the Underground into a death trap and a criminals' paradise.

"Security and safety will be be compromised in the run-up to the Olympics and RMT is demanding a halt to this cuts carnage beneath the London streets before it is too late."

* Services on the Victoria line were disrupted during this morning's rush hour because of signal problems following delays on several lines yesterday caused by over-running engineering works and a broken-down train.

Gerry Doherty, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: "We welcome Boris's dreams for transforming the Tube over the next four years but it does sound more like the opening salvo of his re-election campaign than anything to do with the reality of travelling on the network today.

"For millions of passengers, that means constant delays and overcrowding. They will take Boris's four year Soviet-style plan with a lorry load of salt."

Labour's London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone said: "The mayor's plans for transport increasingly involve aggressively squeezing the farepayer, combined with cuts to funding for the bus service and cuts that must start to hit frontline services.

"Once again, broken promises are the order of the day. Just last week Boris Johnson suggested he might reverse his own cut to the Croydon Tramlink extension, but this week there is no sign of that project in his business plan."

Jo deBank, of transport traveller watchdog London TravelWatch, said: "There are some good things in the plan, including the sustained investment in the Tube upgrade - desperately needed to keep London moving - and improvements at Tube and rail stations.

"However, we are concerned about bus passengers. Passenger demand is rising but capacity is not, and it is expected that people will be waiting longer for their bus in future."