Scrapped river bus service was victim of Dome's failure

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The Independent Online

Fresh signs of the Millennium Dome's failure emerged yesterday with the closure of a high-speed river service linking the site to central London.

Fresh signs of the Millennium Dome's failure emerged yesterday with the closure of a high-speed river service linking the site to central London.

The demise of the government-backed service is a blow to John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, who launched it last year.

Whitehorse Fast Ferries, the company operating the boats, will also abandon all its other services in central London, which were hailed by the Deputy Prime Minister as a key part of integrated transport in the capital. Ferries will still be operating on the lower reaches of the Thames.

The ferry company made a profit on the service for a few days at the beginning of the year but it is now selling off the vessels and other assets for some £1.6m.

Richard Lay, an executive director of the company, pointed out that Whitehorse was not allowed to put up ticket machines nor signs advertising the service. "If the infrastructure had been put in place, as promised, we might have stood a chance.

"You always have operational problems, but there were just too many," Mr Lay said.

Meanwhile, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the minister who is responsible for the Dome, has rejected an invitation to appear at the Greater London Authority to answer questions on the effect that the attraction's failure will have on jobs in the capital.

The minister has suggested that the invitation be sent to David James, the executive chairman of the New Millennium Experience Company, or to its chief executive, Pierre-Yves Gerbeau.

The Cabinet Office said that Lord Falconer's accountability was to Parliament, while the role of the authority was to scrutinise the Mayor.

Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the London Assembly, said that ministers were reluctant to appear before the devolved assemblies. He said he would be writing to the leaders of the Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish assemblies so that they could all put pressure on the Government.

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