Transport for London?
27-Jan-10by Annie Byrne
The transport infrastructure in England is “falling behind every one of our competitors”, according to Visit England chief executive, James Berresford.Berresford, who was keynote speaker at the Meetings Industry Association’s annual conference at the Ironmongers’ Hall, used the gathering to outline a series of action plans as Visit England steps up its game to promote business tourism in the country. The new-look strategy will be officially unveiled in coming weeks.“The transport issue is so important for business tourism. We’ve got to get that right,” stressed Berresford, adding “too many lame ducks are letting the industry down”.His transport warnings followed news this week that promised upgrades to the Jubilee and Northern lines on London’s Underground are under threat as contractor Tube Lines lost its claim to an extra £327m from public funds.The demand for more money was rejected “in its entirety” by an independent adjudicator, and Jubilee Line work will not now be completed until October; 10 months behind schedule. Tube Lines is reportedly losing about £10m a month raising fears the company may ditch its 30-year contracts under the Public Private Partnership. Tube Lines is owned by Spain’s Ferrovial and US company Bechtel.Private maintenance firm Metronet collapsed in 2007, leaving the public with a £410m bill.Commuters in the capital have launched an ‘I Hate FCC’ Facebook group designed to bring another rail company, First Capital Connect, into public ownership. Months of delays and cancellations have also seen Lib-Dem MP Paul Burstow lodge an Early-Day Motion calling for the FCC franchise to be withdrawn.“The delays in December were the final straw,” the MP said. There’s been a severe reduction in timetabled services because FCC haven’t employed enough drivers.” The Facebook group described peak time travelling as “a sick joke” on the franchise routes.Transport secretary Lord Adonis has said FCC needs to improve its services “very significantly”.