Heathrow Airport has had a subway link for decades. When the Elizabeth line’s next phase is opened in the fall, passengers will be able to travel from Heathrow to the banks at Canary Wharf in East London in 40 minutes; that is a prime selling point for a city desperate to hold on to its status as financial mecca after Brexit. All told, the line has 10 entirely new stations, 42 miles of tunnels and crosses under the Thames three times.

“We’re jealous, it’s fair to say,” said Danny Pearlstein, the policy director for Riders Alliance, a transportation advocacy group in New York. “Imagining a new, full-length underground line here is not something anyone is doing. The Second Avenue subway, which people have been talking about for 100 years, has three stations.”

To be fair, Transport for London is not without its problems. It has shelved plans to build a north-south counterpart to the Elizabeth line, not to mention an extension to the Bakerloo tube line, because of a lack of funding. Still reeling from a near-total loss of riders during pandemic lockdowns, the system faces many of the same financial woes as New York’s subway.

Though ridership has recovered from a nadir of 5 percent, it is still at only 70 percent of prepandemic levels. Transport for London is also heavily dependent on ticket fares to cover its costs, more so than the New York subway, which gets state subsidies, as well as funds from bridge and tunnel tolls.

“My other obsession is sorting out the finances,” Mr. Byford said. “One way is to wean us away from dependence on fares.”

He is somewhat vague about how to do that, and it is clear that Transport for London will depend on additional government handouts to get back on sound financial footing. That is why the opening of the Elizabeth line is so important to London: It makes a powerful case for public transportation at a time when people are questioning how many workers will ever return to their offices.

Mr. Byford lays out the case with the practiced cadence of a stump speech. The new line will increase the capacity of the system by 10 percent. Its spacious coaches are well suited to a world in which people are used to social distancing. It will revitalize economically blighted towns east of the city, while making central London accessible to people who live in far-flung towns to the east and west.

While Mr. Byford does not expect ridership ever to return completely, he thinks 90 percent is attainable. If office buildings remain underpopulated, London could develop like Paris, with more residential neighborhoods downtown. (The Elizabeth line bears a distinct resemblance to the high-speed RER system in Paris.) The line, he says, is an insurance policy against the “siren voices of doom” about Brexit.

At times, Mr. Byford slips perilously close to a real estate agent’s patter. “These super-high-tech stations simply ooze quality,” he said. But emerging from Liverpool Street, with its spectacular, rippling, pinstriped ceiling, it is hard to argue with his basic assertion: “This is a game changer.”

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Ukraine Live Updates: War’s Economic Toll Tests Western Unity

LONDON — The West united against Russia’s war on Ukraine more swiftly and solidly than almost anyone had expected. But as the war settles into a prolonged conflict, one that could rumble on for months or even years, it is testing the resolve of Western countries, with European and American officials questioning whether the rising economic toll will erode their solidarity over time.

So far, the fissures are mostly superficial: Hungary’s refusal to sign on to an embargo of Russian oil, thwarting the European Union’s effort to impose a continentwide ban; restiveness in Paris with the Biden administration’s aggressive goal of militarily weakening the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin; a beleaguered President Biden blaming sky-high food and gas prices on a Putin price hike.

Alongside those tensions, there are further signs of solidarity: Finland and Sweden on Wednesday edged closer to joining NATO, with Britain offering both countries security assurances to gird against the Russian threat. In Washington, the House voted 368 to 57 on Tuesday in favor of a nearly $40 billion aid package for Ukraine.

Yet Russia’s tanks rolled across the Ukrainian frontier just 76 days ago, the blink of an eye in the scheme of history’s forever wars. As the fighting grinds on, the cascading effect on supply chains, energy pipelines and agricultural harvests will be felt more acutely at gas pumps and on supermarket shelves.

Mr. Putin, some experts say, is calculating that the West will tire before Russia does of a long twilight struggle for Ukraine’s contested Donbas region, especially if the price for the West’s continued support is turbocharged inflation rates, energy disruptions, depleted public finances and fatigued populations.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

The Biden administration’s director of national intelligence, Avril D. Haines, crystallized those doubts on Tuesday, warning senators that Mr. Putin was digging in for a long siege and “probably counting on U.S. and E.U. resolve to weaken as food shortages, inflation and energy shortages get worse.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden traveled to a farm in Kankakee, Ill., to make the case that Mr. Putin’s war was to blame for food shortages and the cost-of-living squeeze on American families, a tacit sign that his steadfast support for Ukraine — a policy that has won bipartisan support in Washington — could carry a political cost.

Mr. Putin faces his own domestic pressures, which were evident in the calibrated tone he struck during a speech in Moscow’s Red Square on Monday, neither calling for a mass mobilization nor threatening to escalate the conflict. But he also made clear that there was no end in sight for what he falsely called Russia’s campaign to rid its neighbor of “torturers, death squads and Nazis.”

On the ground in Ukraine, the fighting shows signs of becoming a protracted battle. A day after Ukraine’s counteroffensive unseated Russian forces from a cluster of towns northeast of the city of Kharkiv, the region’s governor said on Wednesday that the Ukrainian efforts had driven Moscow’s forces “even further” from the city, giving them “even less opportunity to fire on the regional center.”

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Ukraine’s apparent success at pushing back Russian troops outside Kharkiv — its second largest city, about 20 miles from the Russian border — appears to have contributed to reduced shelling there in recent days, even as Russia makes advances along parts of the front line in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.

That Ukraine would even find itself in an ongoing pitched battle, nearly three months after Russia launched a full-scale invasion, is remarkable. Analysts pointed out that a prolonged war would stretch the resources of a Russian military that has already suffered heavy losses of men and machinery. Given that, some argue that the West should press its advantage by tightening the economic chokehold on Moscow.

“I worry about Western fatigue,” said Michael A. McFaul, a former American ambassador to Russia, “which is why the leaders of the free world should do more now to hasten the end of the war.”

The United States and the European Union, he said, should impose a full range of crippling sanctions immediately, rather than rolling them out in escalating waves, as they have so far. Western countries had come close to such an all-in strategy with military aid, he said, which had helped the Ukrainians hold off the Russians.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

But the halting negotiations on a European oil embargo show the limits of that approach when it comes to Russian energy supplies. European Union ambassadors held another fruitless meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, failing to break the fierce resistance of a single member of the bloc, Hungary.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, who has a warm relationship with Mr. Putin and has been at odds with Brussels, threw hopes for a show of unity into disarray when he blocked the latest measure, arguing that a ban on Russian oil would be the equivalent of an “atomic bomb” for the Hungarian economy.

Mr. Orban has continued to resist, even after concessions that would give Hungary more time to wean itself off Russian oil and intense lobbying by other leaders. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, flew to Budapest to try to sway him while President Emmanuel Macron telephoned him.

“We will only support this proposal if Brussels proposes a solution for the problem that Brussels created,” Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, said, adding that modernizing Hungary’s energy sector would cost “many, many billions of euros.”

In Washington, Mr. Biden has encountered less trouble rounding up support for military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. The House vote in favor of a massive aid package showed how the war’s brutality had overcome resistance from both the right and left to American involvement in military conflicts overseas.

And yet rising food and fuel prices, which are aggravated by the war, pose a genuine threat to Mr. Biden. The price of food rose 0.9 percent in April from the previous month, according to data released on Wednesday. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said the administration was “terribly concerned about global food supplies,” adding that 275 million people around the world face starvation.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“Putin’s war has cut off critical sources of food,” Mr. Biden said to farmers in Illinois. “Our farmers are helping on both fronts, reducing the price of food at home and expanding production and feeding the world in need.”

It remains to be seen whether the United States can increase agricultural production enough to ease the shortages. But the visit to a farm came as Mr. Biden, under pressure over the fastest pace of inflation in 40 years, tried to reassure Americans that the White House is taking price increases seriously.

While Mr. Putin faces arguably much greater pressures — from swelling combat casualties to the economic pain caused by sanctions — he is exploiting nationalist feelings, which some analysts note will give him staying power.

The Kremlin signaled on Wednesday that it could annex the strategically important southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, as the occupying authorities said they would prepare a formal request to Mr. Putin to absorb their region into Russia.

“They are motived by powerful nationalism,” said Francis Fukuyama, a political scientist at Stanford University, “for which they are willing to undergo extraordinary economic damage.” Still, he added, the West’s muscular response could be “a moment of turnaround in the self-confidence of democracies.”

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

For some Europeans, the United States might be going too far. French diplomats with ties to Mr. Macron described the evolving American policy as essentially arming Ukraine to the hilt and maintaining sanctions on Russia indefinitely. France, they said, wants to push hard for negotiations with Mr. Putin because there was no other path to lasting European security.

Other analysts argue that the threats to Western unity are overdone. The moves by Finland and Sweden to join NATO suggest not only that the alliance is pulling together but also that its center of gravity is shifting eastward.

Even before he invaded Ukraine, Mr. Putin warned those countries that they would face “retaliation” if they joined NATO. On a visit to Stockholm, Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested that the mutual security declaration Britain signed with Sweden — under which both countries pledged come to each other’s aid if they face a military threat or natural disaster — would counter that threat.

“Sovereign nations must be free to make those decisions without fear or influence or threat of retaliation,” Mr. Johnson said, alongside Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden. The declaration “will allow us to share more intelligence, bolster our military exercises and further our joint development of technology,” he said.

Credit…Pool photo by Frank Augstein

Despite Germany’s ambivalence about cutting off Russian gas, it seems highly unlikely to reverse course from its landmark commitment to increase military spending. On Wednesday, Germany started training the first class of Ukrainian gun crews on the use of self-propelled howitzers in western Germany. The German military plans to donate seven of the heavy weapons to Ukraine.

“The Russians, because of their barbarity, keep on generating images and news that will help the cause of Western unity,” said Eliot A. Cohen, a political scientist who served in the State Department during the George W. Bush administration. “If the Ukrainians continue to succeed, I think people will cheer them on.”

Reporting was contributed by Matina Stevis-Gridneff from Brussels, Roger Cohen from Paris, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Cora Engelbrecht from London, Ana Swanson and Alan Rappeport from Washington, Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia, and Christopher F. Schuetze from Berlin.

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UK to provide 1.3 billion pounds of further military support to Ukraine

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attend a news briefing, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 9, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT/File Photo

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LONDON, May 7 (Reuters) – Britain said it would provide a further 1.3 billion pounds ($1.60 billion) in military support and aid to Ukraine, making the pledge ahead of a planned video call on Sunday by Group of Seven leaders with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Prime Minister Johnson has been one of the strongest supporters of Ukraine’s efforts to resist Russian forces since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion on Feb. 24. Johnson’s government has sent anti-tank missiles, air defence systems and other weapons to Ukraine.

The new pledge almost doubles Britain’s previous spending commitments on Ukraine and the government said this is the highest rate of spending on a conflict since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, although it did not give details of this calculation.

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“Putin’s brutal attack is not only causing untold devastation in Ukraine – it is also threatening peace and security across Europe,” Johnson said in a statement. Last week he became the first Western leader to address Ukraine’s parliament since the start of the invasion.

The leaders of the G7 countries – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – will hold their virtual meeting with Zelenskiy on Sunday, the day before Russia marks its Victory Day holiday, which marks the end of World War Two in Europe. read more

Britain said the extra spending on Ukraine will come from a reserve used by the government for emergencies.

The government also said Johnson will host a meeting of leading defence companies later this month to discuss increasing production in response to increased demand created by the war in Ukraine.

While Britain has provided significant military aid, it has so far accepted relatively few of the more than 5 million Ukrainians who have fled their country. The British government said on Saturday that so far it had issued more than 86,000 visas to Ukrainians, of whom about 27,000 had reached Britain.

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Reporting by Andrew MacAskill
Editing by Frances Kerry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Sinn Fein calls for united Ireland debate after historic election win

  • Sinn Fein wins most seats for first time
  • Calls for debate on Irish unification
  • Scotland’s Sturgeon hails ‘historic result’
  • Government formation could take months

BELFAST, May 7 (Reuters) – Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), hailed its first victory in a Northern Ireland Assembly election as a “defining moment” for the British-controlled region and called for a debate on a united Ireland.

Sinn Fein was ahead of the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) by 27 to 24 seats with two left to declare, making it the first Irish nationalist party to become the largest in the devolved assembly.

“Today represents a very significant moment of change. It’s a defining moment in our politics and for our people,” said the head of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, whose party secured 29% of first-preference votes to the DUP’s 21.3%.

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She said there should now be an “honest debate” around the party’s goal of unifying the territory with the Republic of Ireland.

The victory will not change the region’s status, as the referendum required to leave the United Kingdom is at the discretion of the British government and likely years away.

But the symbolic importance is huge, ending a century of domination by pro-British parties, supported predominantly by the region’s Protestant population.

The DUP, a leading proponent of Britain’s exit from the European Union, saw support undermined in part due to its role in post-Brexit talks between London and Brussels that resulted in trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

‘HISTORIC RESULT’

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is also leading a campaign to secede from the United Kingdom, was among the first to congratulate Sinn Fein in a Twitter post that hailed a “truly historic result.”

While the largest party has the right to put forward a candidate for First Minister of Northern Ireland’s compulsory power-sharing government, disagreements with the DUP mean such an appointment could be months away.

Asked by a journalist if she expected to become the region’s first Irish nationalist First Minister, O’Neill said: “The people have spoken.”

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said his party would not join the government unless the protocol governing Northern Ireland’s trade with the rest of the UK following its exit from the European Union was totally overhauled.

The DUP’s campaign focused on a promise to scrap what it calls a border in the Irish Sea.

Donaldson said he would see what British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says on the topic in a speech next week before deciding his next move. read more

The British government’s minister for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis in a statement called on the parties to form an executive as soon as possible.

ALL-IRELAND ASPIRATIONS

Sinn Fein was long shunned by the political establishment on both sides of the Irish border for its links to Irish Republican Army violence during three decades of fighting over Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom that ended with a 1998 peace deal.

Since then it has reinvented itself to become the most popular party in the Republic of Ireland, where it has carved out a successful base by campaigning on everyday issues such as the cost of living and healthcare.

It followed a similar path in the Northern Irish elections, where it focused on economic concerns rather than Irish unity to appeal to middle-ground voters.

The election follows demographic trends that have long indicated that pro-British Protestant parties would eventually be eclipsed by predominantly Catholic Irish nationalist parties who favour uniting the north with the Republic of Ireland.

All unionist candidates combined secured slightly more votes than all nationalists in Thursday’s election.

The cross-community Alliance Party scored its strongest ever result with 17 seats as it bids to establish itself as a third pillar of the political system.

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Writing by Conor Humphries; editing by Clelia Oziel and Frank Jack Daniel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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