Byers attacked over tube letter

In correspondence leaked to the Guardian, Byers told London Underground’s (now outgoing) finance director Patrick Butcher in June that government support for the tube would grow from Pounds 104m to Pounds 520m.

This was despite knowing that this was substantially less than the Pounds 775m promised by deputy prime minister John Prescott prior to Labour’s landslide victory at the polls.

In response, Butcher accused the government after a ‘major U-turn’ and expressed his concern at its impact on tube safety. Under the new funding arrangement safety initiatives would get Pounds 30m less than originally promised, while Pounds 72m would come off the budget for station maintenance.

Butcher wrote back warning: ‘The reliability of the train service would suffer. Critical safety and asset health expenditure will be deferred.’

Yesterday, officials representing the transport secretary described the differences as ‘normal bargaining’ during the spending round.

They said the 2001/2002 grant represented a significant cash increase on the Pounds 267m allocated in the previous financial year and claimed the grant even allowed ‘some improvements’.


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