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Shaky JLE fails to convince MPs

LONDON TRANSPORT chief executive Denis Tunnicliffe was last week challenged by MPs to resign after he failed to convince them that the Jubilee Line Extension will be ready for operation by the start of 2000.

Answering questions from a the Arts, Culture and Sport Select Committee, Tunnicliffe insisted that the new Tube line would meet the millennium deadline but admitted that the opening had slipped again from September to the end of October.

Under a barrage of heavy questioning, Tunnicliffe was unable to guarantee against further delays. The wildcat strike by Drake & Skull electricians - called off at the start of this week - had not pushed the project off its revised critical path, he said. But the project now has only marginal time and money contingencies, he conceded.

Tunnicliffe said LT was working on alternative transport plans to get would-be visitors to the Millennium Dome in North Greenwich from 1 January 2000, if the JLE is not ready. This would include boat and bus services between Greenwich and central London.

However, Tunnicliffe said he was 'not sure when we would start to let contracts'; nor was he clear how car-free transport to the exhibition can be achieved without the JLE in place. The line is expected to open in three phases: Stratford to North Greenwich in spring next year, Stratford to Waterloo in summer, and Stratford to Green Park in the autumn. The final phase handover is now targeted for the end of October.

Committee chairman Gerald Kauffman said he feared that runaway costs were being borne by the taxpayer. MPs were also concerned that, should London Transport reallocate funds from other projects to complete the JLE, it would be to the detriment of other parts of the Underground.

MPs demanded that London Transport submit monthly financial statements for the project in addition to current fortnightly progress reports. London Transport's estimate of the 2.85bn project cost is being revised following the appointment of Bechtel to manage the job.

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