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New business taxes to help fund £4 billion Birmingham transport revolution

New business taxes to help fund £4 billion Birmingham transport revolution

🕔13.Nov 2014

Businesses will have to make a major contribution towards the £4 billion cost of transforming Birmingham’s public transport services through the imposition of new taxes, it emerged today.

City council leader Sir Albert Bore published ‘Birmingham Connected’, a 20-year strategy to deliver “a new era of easy movement for people and goods”, but admitted there is at the moment only enough funding identified to pay for less than a quarter of the package.

The document envisages three new metro tram lines,nine  rapid transit bus routes, a £400 million redevelopment of Snow Hill Station and filling in the A38 Queensway tunnels to improve pedestrian access to the Jewellery Quarter.

There are also plans for further investment in local rail services, reinstating the Camp Hill and Sutton Park lines, as well as establishing green travel zones to encourage walking and cycling.

The Birmingham Mobility Action Plan was drawn up by the city council following a green paper setting out ideas to solve the city’s chronic congestion problem. While the green paper included proposals for congestion charging and workplace parking schemes, the final document makes no mention of taxing motorists.

It states instead that a “step change” in the level of transport funding for Birmingham is required and suggests that “serious consideration should be given to the introduction of some form of additional ring-fenced taxation on businesses or additional business rates.

Sir Albert, asked about demand management and workplace parking taxes at a breakfast launch of Birmingham Connect at KPMG’s Snow Hill headquarters, said he was “ruling nothing in and ruling nothing out”.

He added: “At the moment there is growth in car usage and we have to slow that down and reverse it. If we do not then the congestion in many parts of Birmingham at peak hours will become congestion throughout the day.

“Raising money to deliver this over 20 years might mean the raising of taxes which we have not done before. There will have to be discussions with Birmingham residents and the business community as to how that money might be raised.

“We do not have the funding in place to deliver the whole vision and this will mean an increasing contribution from businesses. The green paper consultation showed a strong feeling that the private sector has a key role to play.

“The private sector feels there is a need for more information about the type and level of investment that may be required of them. I intend to have an open discussion with them before moving to firm proposals at the end of 2015.”

The document sets out other ways of accessing funding including tapping into EU money reserved for sustainable transport schemes and using the Community Infrastructure Levy paid by developers.

Attempts by Sir Albert 12 years ago to explore the possibility of congestion charging and workplace parking charges collapsed amid strong opposition from the business sector and a lukewarm reaction from the Government.

Birmingham Connected states: “We make no secret that we want to contain the growth in the number of cars on the roads because an over-reliance on cars means major damage to public health and road safety.

“It causes poor air quality, traffic collisions, congestion for all road users and dissuades people from walking and cycling due to safety concerns. Too many cars on our roads also affects our ability to grow our economy.

“We hope that over time people can move to different ways of using and owning cars, which may include membership of car clubs, or point-to-point hire when needed. In doing so we can see fewer cars owned across the city as a proportion of the population, and we can help reduce the cost of living in Birmingham for some of our low earning households.”

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin told the Birmingham Connected launch that he looked forward to a transformation over the next 20 years with better road and rail links, less pollution and a public transport system where people could travel easily and quickly.

The main proposals in the plan are:

  • The completion of a £1.2 billion public transport network within 20 years, allowing people to travel across the city in high quality vehicles in safety and, at busy times, faster than they could by car.
  • Developing a strategy for the long-term future and role of the A38 through the city, including consulting on options such as substantial redesign and redirecting through traffic on to either a substantially upgraded ring road or new, longer tunnels under the city.
  • The introduction of Green Travel Districts (GTDs) where people are put before cars, enabling residents, workers and visitors to walk, cycle or take public transport safely. An initial GTD will be chosen in 2015 and a detailed feasibility study carried out.
  • Improving rail links across the city and beyond, including re-opening and upgrading rail routes to Moseley and Kings Heath, Sutton Coldfield via Walmley and Tamworth via The Fort and Castle Vale, supporting new housing and jobs in these areas.
  • A £400 million upgrade for Snow Hill Station once New Street Station re-opens fully in 2015.
  • An investment package to deliver Birmingham’s local connectivity strategy for HS2, linking people across the city to it as well as improving links across the wider Midlands region and promoting Birmingham as a place to do to business.
  • Promoting a Low Emissions Zone in the city centre to improve air quality and help Birmingham City Council meet carbon reduction targets, leading to a healthier city.

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