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Bob Kiley: A Profile

THURSDAY 9th January 2003
"A CIA activist working for an unreconstructed Trotskyite" was how Bob Kiley and Ken Livingstone described their professional relationship, after the London Mayor brought the American dynamo across the Atlantic in 2001 to sort out the city's Tube system.

Underground challenge

For Kiley, shaking up the state of the Underground has meant rattling the cages of the Treasury, being sacked by the Government and even taking the country's leaders to court. The last two years have not been a smooth ride.

His success in his home nation could not have prepared him for this. Missouri-born and Harvard-educated, Bob Kiley spent the early part of his career gliding up the ranks of the CIA, before moving into the public sector.

Battling bureaucrats

Focussing his attention on the track, he enjoyed dramatic results. He has been credited with transforming the subway systems of Boston and New York, spending billions of public dollars wisely and, with his eradication of graffiti, "giving the subway back its respect".

But the man who defeated fare-dodgers at home has found British bureaucrats more difficult to subdue. After the triumph of Livingstone's transatlantic acquisition, Kiley found he had inherited all of Red Ken's enmity within Westminster.

Ill feeling

The ill feeling came to a head with the Government's proposed PPP scheme. Kiley believes their approach of splitting tube investment between the public and private sector to be "fatally and fundamentally flawed" and ended up saying so in the High Court.

This has not endeared him to the country's higher powers. Sacked from his nominal position within the Government, Kiley keeps his job with Livingstone, but still waits for the Chancellor to agree to a meeting with him.

Big house, small achievement?

His apparent lack of progress, coupled with his huge salary and mansion in Belgravia, has invoked fresh criticism. Kiley has also defended his huge group of American-imported employees as "the wealth of experience any executive should bring".

After two years of struggle, Kiley remains sanguine about his position and the different needs of a national government and an overburdened transport system. He insists he will be sitting this one out and fulfilling his contract.

And as for the personal hostility he has encountered as Ken's protégé, the former CIA activist reflects, "Well, it was never going to be a love affair."