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Livingstone increases pressure to scrap private Tube upgrade

LONDON MAYOR Ken Livingstone claimed this week that he could successfully mount a legal challenge to the Government's plans to upgrade London's Tube with private finance.

'When I first raised the possibility of a judicial review of this decision, people said 'you can't win'. But I have taken the advice of leading counsel and they have said I can, ' he told a fringe meeting at this week's Labour Party Conference.

Livingstone's renewed attack on the £7.2bn Tube upgrade came as the Industrial Society published a report on the project.

The report was written by Industrial Society chief executive and former Observer editor Will Hutton and commissioned by Livingstone.

It warns that privatising the upgrade carries huge safety risks. Livingstone said: 'John Prescott has said he will not go ahead if there are big safety risks, but in the Hutton report big safety risks are identified all the way through.'

Expelled last year from the Labour party for running as an independent candidate for London Mayor against official labour candidate Frank Dobson, Livingstone arrived at the Labour conference doorstep to defend the credentials of the Hutton report.

He said: 'This report was not my idea but Frank Dobson's. He called for an independent review of the public private partnership when he was running for London Mayor.

'This report is effectively a response to the Labour Party. We will be sending it to every council in London.'

The report also warns that contractors could hold up the upgrade to force London Underground to increase payments if costs began to escalate unexpectedly.

'The Infracos have an incentive to 'hold up' important investment until they get paid more, ' it says. 'If there is any risk of losing the contract they can simply withhold additional investment.'

The report says that consortia bidding for the upgrade are too small, making it difficult for them to borrow large sums of money needed to finance 'hidden or unanticipated investment they may have to undertake.'

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