Cash-cuts threat to Tube services under threat

London Underground passengers face a poorer service with slower trains, broken escalators and unmodernised stations because of cutbacks in investment over the next three years, London Transport chiefs warned MPs yesterday.

Giving evidence to the Commons Transport Committee, Peter Ford, chairman of London Transport, warned of the decline in service because of cuts made in the Budget in November. Rather than catching up on the backlog of pounds 1.2bn of investment needed to turn the system into a decent modern metro, the backlog would rise by pounds 300m by the end of the decade, he said.

Funding for the next three years is now about pounds 700m less than had been anticipated, partly because of a pounds 375m reduction in government investment, and partly because of an overspend on the Jubilee Line extension project of pounds 499m, all but pounds 100m of which the Government has said must be met out of London Transport funds. Mr Ford said: "The cut that has been made should be reinstated."

It is the first time that London Transport has revealed details of the overspend on the Jubilee Line extension. Mr Ford said it was the largest civil engineering project in Europe and that it was very difficult to estimate the cost given the difficult ground conditions. The Government's decision to make London Transport pay for the overspend out of its existing budget had caused much of its financial difficulties.

David Bailey, London Underground's director of development, listed cuts to be made on virtually every line. The modernisation of several stations, including major ones such as Oxford Circus, Waterloo and Earl's Court would not take place, planning for train replacement on the Victoria Line which is now more than 30 years old will be slowed down and escalators would not be replaced. While safety would not be compromised, Mr Bailey said: "There may be additional speed restrictions, and may be less easy access to stations".

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