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Mayor: Lack of funding 'criminal'

Ken Livingstone
Livingstone: Underground "is almost being held together by glue and string."

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The mayor of London says he is enraged by a power failure that brought 60 percent of the London Underground rail system to a standstill.

The power is back on, but there is no explanation as to what caused the outage. Mayor Ken Livingstone spoke to CNN Anchor Charles Hodson about the outage. This is a transcript of their conversation:

HODSON: Mr. Livingstone, your New York equivalent Mr. Bloomberg was very quick to say what had gone wrong there. Were you in the loop soon as to what had gone wrong or are you in the loop now?

LIVINGSTONE: I have just spoken to the chairman of the National Grid. They still don't know exactly what it was that went wrong. One bit of equipment started to look as though it was going on the blink, so they took it out of service. After that they are not certain.

They've said that they will cooperate fully with my staff, so that we can find out hopefully within the next couple of days exactly what happened and see if we can put in place the mechanisms that will mean that it will not happen again. We are being told that it was a "one off" and that it would never happen again, but I want absolute assurance quite frankly.

HODSON: It is far from satisfactory, not least because of the enormous inconvenience and suffering that is caused. A quarter of a million, probably more, were trapped in the Underground.

LIVINGSTONE: And think how much worse it would have been if it had been a month ago at the height of the heat wave. What was quite encouraging was that the response of the Underground staff was very good. We started to get people who had been trapped in the tunnels out very rapidly, not like in the old days where they would be left there for an hour and a half or so on, and we got most of the system up and running and most people got home before midnight.

What I was struck by, given that many people's, including myself, initial response was that this could be a terrorist attack, people stayed very calm, there was no panicking, the police reports from across London suggest that nobody started to get upset or agitated, they just got on with their difficult journey home or carried on working a bit later in the office.

HODSON: There is no mistaking the familiar London stoicism -- business as usual and all of that -- but is this not another proof of just how weak the infrastructure is in London, whether you are looking at the Underground rail system or the electricity power system?

LIVINGSTONE: This is exactly my point. It used to be that the Tube had its own power generator at Lotts Road. When that got old and started to break, down the government of the day -- and I can't even tell you which one it was now because it was some time ago -- decided that instead of building a new modern generator, we would depend on the National Grid, and that was fine as long as you can guarantee that the National Grid won't go down.

And it may very well be that the lesson that comes out of this is that the government has got to come up with the money that it did not in the past, to actually give us that generator so that we at least have a failsafe.

HODSON: What is your message to all of those looking in on this from all over the world who might be forgiven for thinking that London, a bit like New York, really does not have the infrastructure to be a major financial and business center.

LIVINGSTONE: Well, that is one of the real problems, and that is clearly a bad blow for our international reputation. But this is not unique to New York and London -- we've had similar problems in Finland and in Italy.

I think we may very well find that the problem here is that great wave of privatization that went round the world -- all the utilities were flogged off, big share options for the boys at the top, but not the investment in modern infrastructure that you need. We are just getting the real detailed report from my people that are now running the Underground, we have had it for five weeks.

HODSON: What can you do to get that investment rolling again?

LIVINGSTONE: The first thing is finding out the state we are in. I am going to take TV and newspaper people in to see the state of the equipment in a few weeks time. We have been finding equipment that in other countries you could only find in their transport museums. We have been finding big notices saying, "Don't open this door because of asbestos" -- these are in the core parts of the Underground from which we run the system. The lack of investment, I think, is bordering on the criminal, and it is almost being held together by glue and string.


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