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London congestion charging under fire again

LONDON'S CONGESTION charging proposals came under renewed fire this week after serious concerns surfaced over the management of contracts to set up the scheme.

Members of the Greater London Assembly's congestion charging scrutiny committee said this week that they feared contracts to implement a vehicle number plates recognition scheme in a central London zone could not be adequately overseen.

After the grilling its final witnesses - London Mayor Ken Livingstone and prospective congestion charging chief Derek Turner - committee chairman Lyne Featherstone told NCE that the structure of the project management was likely to be a major concern in the report due out this month.

Featherstone said: 'In terms of the project overview there seems to be a single line down from Derek Turner to the main contractors that bypasses the project management consultants. There are concerns over reporting.'

But Derek Turner, responding to earlier concerns voiced by witnesses, said: 'The comments about the project management have been made by people with no experience of delivering civil engineering schemes in London.'

Featherstone confirmed that the target date of January 2003 was also likely to be questioned in the final report. But she defended the validity of evidence given by WS Atkins and RACAL who recommended a two year implementation period rather than the 15 months suggested by Turner.

'It's fair to say there is agreement across the committee on the deliverability of the timescale, ' she said.

Livingstone last week tried to reassure the committee, which he told: 'We may come back to the Assembly and say we can't make January 2003 and that the timetable will slip to Easter. If the public doesn't see improvements I will delay the scheme.'

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