Earlier this week, speaking in the House of Lords, Lloyd Webber publicly criticised the Government for its failure in handling the capital's transport policy and, last night, he followed this up with more vitriol in an interview with the Evening Standard.
"Traffic has become impossible," he told the newspaper. "It is ridiculous because there were more vehicles on London's roads ten years ago than there are now, but it now takes twice as long to get to your destination. The issue isn't just the terrible traffic management, it is the useless public transport which means that people can't get home after watching a play.
He continued: "It is an awful situation and many of the coach companies that bring people in from the regions are now abandoning trips to London theatres. It has become a no-go area these days."
Lloyd Webber cited specifically the southbound closure of St Martin's Lane and Charing Cross Road and the pavement confusion around those works that directly impede passage to theatres such as the Garrick, Duke of York's and Albery as well as many more venues indirectly. "These are the two main arteries heading south from the West End. Closing them just can't be right," he said. "Why is Ken Livingstone doing this?"
"The problems are hitting the smaller shows more than the big West End productions, and things like The Lieutenant of Inishmore - which was wonderfully reviewed - probably shouldn't be closing, but people just find it difficult to get to the Garrick Theatre."
He concluded: "The buck is continually being passed between the Department of Transport, Ken Livingstone's office and the GLA (Greater London Authority), but it has to stop somewhere.... West End theatres and the restaurant trade they supply customers for was generating more than £1 billion for London's economy last year. It is political lunacy to ignore that."
This is not the first time that Lloyd Webber has come out so strongly against Livingstone and the Government on such matters. In March 2001, he teamed up for a rare joint interview with Cameron Mackintosh in the Evening Standard in which the pair decried the perilous state of the West End, calling Ken Livingstone's London an "exhausted" city whose myriad problems - traffic chaos, an unreliable Underground service, slow and unsafe rail transport, high prices, rising street crime and litter - was strangling theatres and other businesses. This latest attack comes shortly after two successive Tube strikes which crippled the capital for 36 hours each.
- by Terri Paddock