Livingstone abandons New Year 'midnight moment'

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The Independent Online

Firework displays will be held across London at teatime on New Year's Eve after disputes over timing were resolved yesterday at a meeting between John Prescott and Ken Livingstone.

Firework displays will be held across London at teatime on New Year's Eve after disputes over timing were resolved yesterday at a meeting between John Prescott and Ken Livingstone.

The capital's celebrations had been put at risk by threats of a Tube strike after protests over safety by rail unions.

Emerging from yesterday's meeting wreathed in smiles, the Deputy Prime Minister and London Mayor said a "midnight moment" planned by Mr Livingstone had been cancelled.

While transport arrangements had still to be finalised, the "moment" would take place around five in the evening. The aim was to light up London with fireworks launched from tall buildings. The public's best views would be from high ground such as Hampstead Heath or Crystal Palace Park.

Transport operators will look at the plans and return with a schedule, which they hope will allow revellers to travel to the events without difficulty. Plans to close Victoria and Charing Cross stations, making travel into central London difficult for people living south of the river, may now be reversed.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union had threatened action after London Underground announced it would close about 60 inner-London Tube stations from 4pm on New Year's Eve. Its action was to have taken place from noon on New Year's Eve to noon on New Year's Day.

London Underground said the closures were the only way to cope with an expected 1.5 million people attending the end-of-year fireworks party. If all the stations were open it would "attract too many people".

But a spokesman for Mr Livingstone said:"There was never any intention of encouraging people to stay in town for a centrally based firework display. Rather than looking up, people will need to look across London."

The RMT was invited to yesterday's meeting alongside the other main rail union, Aslef.

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