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August 26, 2009

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London underground rail route has mayor riled

MAYOR of London Boris Johnson yesterday branded delays on a major underground railway route as "unacceptable" after doubts were raised that work on its upgrade would not be completed by its end-of-year deadline.

Tube Lines, and its key shareholder Bechtel, are carrying out a 500-million-pound (US$819.3 million) upgrade of the Jubilee Line under a Public Private Partnership deal.

The line has suffered full or partial closures every weekend this year, causing havoc for commuters traveling to the busy Canary Wharf financial district and music fans attending the O2 arena in Greenwich, east London.

"Tube Lines must get its act together if Londoners are to benefit from faster, more frequent and reliable services on the Jubilee Line," Johnson said. "I am hugely frustrated at their progress to date, which is simply unacceptable."

The mayor appoints the board of Transport for London, the body responsible for most of the city's transport system.

Tube Lines had promised to complete the work by June, and despite being one of London's newest Underground lines, was granted an additional 12 weekends to meet its December 31 contractual deadline.

Then in the summer, Tube Lines asked for another six weekends of closures. One weekend has been granted, but TfL is reluctant to grant the other five, saying it needs an independent review to restore confidence.

"Tube Lines' hunger for more Jubilee Line closures has stretched the patience of Londoners and business almost to breaking point," Johnson said. "Before we can consider any more disruption, we must have confidence they will deliver."

Financial penalties will kick in if the deadline is missed, adding up to several million pounds a month.

When the upgrade is completed, it should result in more frequent and reliable Tube services, TfL said in its annual London Underground PPP report. TfL took over responsibility for LU in 2003.


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