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Ministers set to defend private Tube funding

TRANSPORT MINISTERS Gavin Strang and Glenda Jackson were yesterday expected to justify using private finance to upgrade London's Underground system after criticism from sacked London Transport chairman Peter Ford

Last week Ford told MPs that government plans to privately fund and maintain the capital's Tube infrastructure are likely to cost far more than a public sector option.

The ministers were due to appear before the House of Commons transport subcommittee on Wednesday. It was expected they would rebut claims made by Ford to the committee last week.

Ford claimed there was no consultation between LT and Government ahead of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's decision to seek private finance for the Tube upgrade.

Ford told the Transport subcommittee last Wednesday that the best option was to keep the Underground in public hands but allow LT to raise its own finance. He explained that under the proposed private finance solution, LT would face the risk of unpredictable private sector prices and be vulnerable to its demands for higher returns.

Ford was sacked last month after Prescott reorganised LT's management in preparation for the expected £7bn privately financed upgrade.

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