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Mayoral hopefuls add pressure

The London mayor election campaign is increasing pressure on the government to boost infrastructure spending in the capital.

PRESSURE IS mounting on chancellor Gordon Brown to authorise billions of pounds of spending on London's transport infrastructure in July's comprehensive spending review. The review will follow hard on the heels of next week's local elections, which include the vote on who will be London's mayor for the next four years.

Candidates for all three major political parties support construction of Crossrail, the East London Line extension and the Thameslink 2000 commuter rail upgrade.

As a result, whoever wins will claim a voters' mandate to campaign hard for these long awaited projects to move ahead.

With the prospect of a general election looming within the next 12 months, the government cannot afford to ignore the will of 12M plus voters in the Greater London area. This is especially true if Labour candidate and current mayor Ken Livingstone is voted in for a second term.

Indeed, hopes that Crossrail would finally get the go-ahead were raised last week by prime minister Tony Blair. He was quoted as saying that the project was an investment 'we cannot afford not to make', a remark widely interpreted to mean, 'we must build it'.

But politician watchers will know that such statements offer little in the way of real commitment. Blair fell short of saying when the project would be allowed to go ahead, or whether the scheme would be built in one go or in phases.

Rather conveniently perhaps, announcements on these major schemes cannot now be made until after the local elections, so the government cannot be accused of influencing voters.

This means decisions are likely to be held up until the comprehensive spending review.

Let us hope that no more excuses for delay materialise.

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