A POWERFUL new body could take control of London's transport's needs on 31 March 2000, the government announced this week.
The new body, dubbed Transport for London, will assume responsibility for the capital's Underground system, 'strategic' roads, buses and taxis if and when the Greater London Authority comes into being. Much of the GLA's £3.3bn annual budget will be passed to the new body.
Londoners vote on 7 May to decide if they want the GLA, complete with an elected assembly and mayor. If the answer is yes, the required legislation is expected to become law within a year, with first elections in 2000. Transferring responsibility from existing bodies is likely to begin even earlier.
According to the White Paper, A mayor and assembly for London, released this week, London's mayor would have huge influence in the capital during his or her four year term. As well as transport, responsibilities will cover London's planning, economic development, environmental protection and im- provement, the police and fire services, health and culture.
But TfL promises to be one of the highest profile areas of the new administration, due to its wide ranging powers:
TfL will acquire the government stake in London Underground and be the public sector partner in the plans to revive the network (NCE 26 March).
TfL will become the highway and traffic authority for London's trunk roads and primary routes. The capital's motorway networks will remain in the hands of the Highways Agency. TfL will take on the relevant powers, and possibly staff, from the Agency and affected local authorities.
TfL is likely to pioneer road charging in the capital. The White Paper explains: 'Many have argued the case for the introduction of congestion charging or a parking levy. TfL would be well placed to plan or implement such proposals.'
TfL will also be responsible for the Docklands Light Railway and the Croydon Tramlink, plus Victoria Coach Station and a 'coach terminal strategy' for the capital.
The TfL board will be chaired by the mayor, or his/her appointee, and will consist of between eight and 15 members chosen by the mayor. It will implement the transport plan developed by the mayor's office. Organisation could be based on mode (road, rail) or function (regulation, procurement).
And while the mayor will not have control over London's heavy freight and passenger rail services, the consultation paper says the mayor 'will have a strong voice'.
He or she will be able to 'secure the provision of new passenger services' and 'fund new network improvements, as well as investment in new stations or improvements to existing ones.'