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Road tolls only option to secure Crossrail says report

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LONDON'S CROSSRAIL scheme is unviable without a Greater London road toll to pay for it, a leading transport economist claims this week.

The rail tunnel under central London, along with other urgently needed rail, road and tram infrastructure, will remain 'lines on maps' unless road user charging, is introduced, said Imperial College London professor of transport and infrastructure Stephen Glaister.

Such a scheme could net £3bn a year, Glaister's report, Paying for a bigger, better quality London, warns that there is no other way to find the estimated £50bn needed for new infrastructure in the capital.

His estimate comes from schemes included in Transport for London's (TfL) long-term vision, T2025 - Transport challenges for a growing city, to be released next week.

'Without it [London-wide road charging] I don't see how London will have an income stream to do what it wants to do, ' Glaister said.

Glaister told a meeting at an exhibition organised by New London Architecture - London's Moving: How transport is changing - that the vast majority of future government funds will go towards paying back the privately funded upgrade of London Underground and servicing debt.

'We need lots of extra money just to stand still, ' he said.

Big fare increases would raise an extra £6bn at most over 30 years, while a 10%-20% rise in business rates could raise between £4bn and £12bn over the same period.

But by the biggest revenue raiser would be a Greater London road toll that would take payment direct from drivers' bank accounts. This in turn would enable TfL to borrow between £25bn-£40bn on the nancial markets, says his report.

Glaister also dismissed claims that it would be a stealth tax, provided the money can be ringfenced for transport.

'In most other major cities in the world a crucial element of success is local taxation, ' he said.

In a report to be released later this month, business lobby group London First will say that over two-thirds of big businesses in London are ready to back road tolls.

'We believe it is a good idea if the revenue is fully hypothecated and spent on public transport, and improving the road network, ' said London First director for transport Tim Hockney.

Glaister's report adds to the growing momentum for road tolls. The Treasury-instigated Eddington Review into the economics of transport is expected to give strong backing to tolls when it is published next month.

See Viewpoint p15

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