However, a Department for Transport spokesperson said changes would have to be made to the Greater London Authority Act – the statute that created TfL – before the switch was completed.
A source close to London Underground said he expected the transfer to be delayed until the autumn. The source said: "There needs to be some gap between the closure of the Metronet PPP deals, which we expect to happen in April, and transfer."
The delay will mean that the public–private partnership consortiums are likely to begin work under a friendly management regime.
The source added that he hoped London mayor Ken Livingstone – who is appealing against the European Commission's decision to permit the part-privatisation of the Tube – would tone down his attitude to the PPP once the transfer happened. "It would be nice if Ken gave up the fight," he said.
In fact, it has emerged that a deal between Livingstone and the government over the use of private contractors to to maintain and upgrade the Tube could be agreed in days.
Reports this week said Livingstone was close to striking a bargain, despite his tenacious opposition to the PPP. Under the agreement, the mayor would withdraw his appeal against the PPP in return for increased government funding in the event of "unforeseen circumstances".