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Ministers relieved at Tube judgement

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Government ministers were heaving a sigh of relief this week as Justice Sullivan ruled that the government could push through part privatisation plans to upgrade London Underground.

Sullivan decided that the 1999 Greater London Authority Act (GLAA) gave the government, via London Regional Transport (LRT), 'the last word' to push through the public private partnership (PPP) plans.

This, he ruled, is because responsibility for the Tube does not officially pass to Transport for London (TfL), which has opposed the plans, until PPP contracts are signed.

TfL and London mayor Ken Livingstone now have no legal power to stop them.

TfL had argued that the GLAA gave it the power to reject the PPP because the contracts were inconsistent with its transport strategy.

Sullivan ruled against this, but conceded that the government equally had no power to force the mayor to change his transport strategy, as Livingstone had ignored the PPP plans on the expert advice of transport commissioner Bob Kiley.

Sullivan criticised the government for failing to foresee that the mayor would reject the PPP plans.

He highlighted the fact that this possibility was put to then transport minister Glenda Jackson in a House of Commons debate in 1999.

At the time Jackson said there was no need to consider this prospect as the mayor was likely to be Labour candidate.

Sullivan said that if Jackson had answered the point at the time: 'The intent of ministers would have been made plain. False hopes might not have been raised only to be dashed in these proceedings.'

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