The Los Angeles metro - the Red line which celebrated its fifth birthday on January 30 - became a byword for delays, political interference and cost over-runs.

On January 15, the board of the LA Metropolitan Transportation Authority accepted the recommendation of acting Chief Executive Officer Julian Burke that planning work should be halted on metro extensions to East Los Angeles and the Mid-City area, and on a connecting east - west line crossing the San Fernando valley. Also halted is construction of a section of the light rail Blue line from downtown LA to Pasadena, on which $200m has already been spent. The position will be reviewed in six months.

The problem is cash. In a report to the board, Burke pointed out that there was no funding in place or in prospect to continue working on these projects, though the $3bn extension of the Red line to North Hollywood is going ahead despite being $274m over budget on the first segment alone; this is scheduled to open early next year.

Aside from the very successful commuter operations, LA now has three new urban railways built to mutually incompatible standards: the Red line is heavy metro; the Blue line is classic light rail with a modest downtown section in tunnel; the Green line (originally intended to be fully automated) is elevated.

Many MTA board members believe the rail construction programme is dead for the forseeable future. ’Right now, it’s clear that with the most optimistic view of funding from Washington, we can’t really build the [Red line] extensions for a number of years’, said LA Mayor Richard Riordan, adding that the current planning effort ’is virtually wasted money.’ o