THE Mayor of London has called for a new system to regulate Tube line track closures after branding the ongoing disruptions a "rip-off" for passengers.

Conservative Boris Johnson condemned the shutting of the lines for engineering work and apologised to residents for the inconvenience at a public meeting held at Harrow School last Wednesday (March 3) at which Londoners were given the chance to quiz and scrutinise him directly.

During the two-hour event, called People's Question Time and chaired by Harrow councillor and London Assembly member for Harrow and Brent Navin Shah (Labour), Mr Johnson praised Harrow's police presence, spoke of the legacy the Olympics will bring to all of London and took questions on the third runway proposal at Heathrow, greener transport and the Brent Cross redevelopment.

When questions were raised about the continued disruption to the Jubilee, Metropolitan and Bakerloo lines, Mr Johnson said he blamed the government for the "ludicrous" structure they had introduced and a contract signed in 2003 which allowed Tube Lines - the maintenance company responsible for repairing and improving the lines - to close the system as much as they wanted.

He said: "It is completely mad. There have

frankly been times when, as far as we can tell, they have asked for closures and we are contractually obliged to deliver those closures.

"We have been asked for closures when actually they are not able to get on with sending their people down the line to put in the new signalling because the programme work, the software work, still hasn't been done in Canada.

"I think the whole system has been crackers and it's time that we move forward with a new system that gave transparency, gave clarity to London Underground but also gave taxpayer value and stopped what is, in my view, a complete rip-off by the contractors - a licence to steal, to put it no higher than that."

Mr Johnson also explained the cost of improving disabled access to Harrow-on-the-Hill Tube station, for which the Observer has run the Give Us A Lift campaign, had been so high he had been forced to postpone the plans, citing an example in Green Park where the installation of an elevator had cost £96million.

Audience members heard Mr Johnson explain the opportunities the 2012 Olympic Games would bring to the city.

He called on individual boroughs to stir up the excitement and motivation surrounding the sporting extravaganza to ensure that everyone gets their money's worth out of the £9.3billion price tag of the games, as well as confirming that Londoners would not get preferential treatment regarding tickets as that would be illegal.

THIRD RUNWAY PROPOSAL AT HEATHROW: * "You have my absolutely categorical assurance that we will oppose the third runway. Indeed I believe that we have given some small help to the campaign against the third runway. We believe it is completely the wrong policy for London. I will oppose a third runway at Heathrow as long as there's breath in my body."


* "We are being absolutely militant in our championing of low carbon, zero carbon, vehicles of all kinds. London leads the world. London has an incredible reputation at the moment. At the Copenhagen summit, people were very impressed with what we were doing with electric cars. By 2020, I'd like to see all 32,000 taxis in London going to zero-carbon either by electric or some other means."