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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Declining London Tube Delivers a Daily Ordeal

LONDON -- Tourists and foreign businessmen who step on to London's antiquated subway network could be forgiven for being taken aback at the shabby appearance of the stations and carriages.

But for the 1.6 million Londoners who use the capital's subway every day, each trip is a potential ordeal.

Delays caused by the breakdown of decades-old signalling and track equipment, which often make the grimy trains shudder to a halt in mid-tunnel, are a common feature on many lines.

Some of the 245 stations are so old that the platforms are too narrow for the mass of passengers who crowd there, and even on the most modern branches of the network there are intermittent problems.

Yet the "Tube," as it is known locally, is one of the world's most expensive subways after a series of steep fare increases under 17 years of Conservative government, which has insisted the network make a profit. The cost of a single journey in the center was increased in early January by 9 percent to ?1.20 ($2), three times higher than it was a decade ago. In New York a subway ticket costs $1.50, while in Tokyo a ride in the center is 160 yen ($1.40) and in Paris it is around seven francs ($1.30). But despite these high ticket prices, decades of under-investment have led to a backlog of ?1.2 billion of repairs and modernization. And the situation is declining further.

The Tory government, which intends to privatize the Tube if it gets re-elected in this spring's upcoming general elections -- thus removing it from taxpayers' responsibility -- slashed the 1997 to '98 budget for the network.

The operating company, which calculates that it needs to spend ?700 million a year on upgrading the Tube, is to receive only ?383 million in government funding.

And of this amount, ?150 million must be paid as a first installment toward a huge overrun in the costs of building the extension of the Jubilee Line, which will run to Canary Wharf, a business development in east London.

The result: All refurbishment and modernization programs not essential to safety have been delayed for years, including one for the so-called "misery line," the Northern Line, which has the worst reputation among London's embattled commuters. The prospect of further decay arouses deep anger at London First, a consortium of 300 London businesses set up to promote the British capital's interests.

"We cannot afford to let the Underground deteriorate any further. We want to see it improved," said the body's chief spokesman, Robert Gordon-Clark.

aware of what is happening in Serbia and is likely to be supportive of the opposition movement.

But in several cities that once were strongholds of Milosevic's Socialist Party, such as Nis in southern Serbia, local telephone numbers now are available for computer hackers to sign on to providers and gain access to networks.

In one of the more mischievous uses of the Net, signers-on can learn the e-mail address of Politika, the mouthpiece newspaper of the regime, and of the United Yugoslav Left, the Marxist political party of Milosevic's powerful wife, Mirjana Markovic. With a few clicks of the mouse, a user can send an electronic picture of an egg -- the symbol of this protest movement -- to Politika editors or to Mrs. Milosevic.

"Protest of '96'' Web site address is