He was not referring to the state of the economy, but to the construction of the pounds 2bn Jubilee Line extension from Green Park to Stratford, east London, via Canary Wharf, which he launched by pressing the switch of a piledriver.
Mr Major, looking distinctly out of sorts in what he described as 'one of the chilliest and windswept parts of London', managed to irritate the assembled worthies of London Underground, who had long been pressing for the line to be built, by only mentioning the organisation last. They came after a long list that included the London Docklands Development and the banks, which now control Canary Wharf and are contributing pounds 160m towards the building costs of the line. The extension is due to be completed in 1998.
Mr Major said that the involvement of the private sector was 'the prototype for the sort of partnership we will see in the future'. However, his opponents have pointed out that construction of the line was delayed for a year because of wrangles with the private backers, putting an extra pounds 300m on to its cost.
The long delay, however, allowed London Underground to be well prepared when the go-ahead was finally given on 29 October, and it has already let pounds 1.3bn worth of contracts.
The new 10-mile line will join with existing track to take trains from Stratford to Stanmore in north-west London.
Guests had been issued with ear plugs to protect themselves against the noise of the hammer which Mr Major set in motion after his speech. The hammer was supposed to drive a 60-ft pile, which promptly stopped after three bangs.
'I didn't know it would be that quick,' Mr Major quipped.
Sir Wilfrid Newton, chairman of London Transport, said that the line would bring prosperity to the Isle of Dogs, Greenwich and Stratford - 'parts of London currently asleep'.
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content