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Last Updated: Friday, 1 December 2006, 16:38 GMT
Business chiefs in rail link plea
Waverley station, edinburgh
Business leaders in Edinburgh want a high-speed rail link from London
Edinburgh business leaders have said that a high-speed rail link between the Scottish capital and London should be looked at.

The comments by Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce come in the wake of a transport study published on Friday.

Sir Rod Eddington's report said the door was still open for a high speed rail link, but it was not a priority.

Chamber deputy chief executive Graham Birse said such railways had been a success in both Europe and Japan.

Cycle lanes

Chancellor Gordon Brown asked former British Airways chief executive Sir Rod to look at the impact of transport decisions on productivity and economic growth.

He concluded that charging motorists by the mile would raise 28bn a year and would help to cut congestion and carbon emissions.

The businessman stressed that small-scale schemes like cycle lanes were better than grand, futuristic plans.

Sir Rod said in his report: "Road pricing on this scale is new and at this stage has unknown implementation costs.

READ THE FINDINGS

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"There are very significant risks and uncertainties involved in delivering a pricing policy, particularly around the technology needed for its delivery."

Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce gave some support to road pricing, but it believes that a high-speed rail link between Scotland and London should be looked at.

Mr Birse said: "We would suggest the large-scale investments necessary to bring such a scheme into being have to be considered.

"It is an investment which can right the disadvantages of distance from market suffered by businesses the further north you go.

"The 30-year experience of success in high-speed rail provision on the continent, and longer in Japan, should be part of taking a long-term view on transport policy.

"This also fits in with growing concerns about the environment, and the inability of our crowded rail network to increase capacity much further."

Mr Birse also said businesses were not against the idea of road charges, but argued these would have to be a replacement for existing transport taxes, not in addition to them.

We do feel there is a lack of attention to the issue in Scotland, because it is a reserved matter
Graham Birse
Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce

Last year residents in Edinburgh voted by almost three to one against proposals to bring in congestion charging in the city.

But Mr Birse said: "Road pricing has been raised as a strong element of Lord Eddington's proposals, and businesses are not against this per se provided it is a replacement for existing taxes, not a supplement.

"However, much will depend on the model proposed."

He added: "We do feel there is a lack of attention to the issue in Scotland, because it is a reserved matter, but we call on all business north of the border to get serious about considering any such proposals in the report."

Traffic jam
The UK Government says congestion could rise by 25% by 2015

Although the report was commissioned by the UK Government, transport policy north of the border is devolved to the Scottish Executive and Scottish ministers will decide whether to implement any of the findings.

A spokeswoman for the executive said ministers would be looking with interest at the report.

She said: "We will consider his report and intend to publish our own long-term national transport strategy next week."

The executive's stance favours road user charging as a way of combating congestion.

But if it is to work, the executive argues, it would have to be part of a UK approach involving the restructuring of motoring taxation.

Not feasible

The Scottish Green's spokesman on transport, Mark Ballard MSP, said that road pricing would reduce traffic and slash pollution, but the threat of climate change demanded more immediate and effective measures.

Friends of the Earth Scotland's chief executive Duncan McLaren said the report sent mixed messages about the role of transport policy in tackling climate change.

The SNP's transport spokesperson Angus MacNeil MP said Sir Rod's findings offered a valuable contribution to the debate about how Scotland could have a transport infrastructure fit for the 21st Century.

He added: "However, at the present time a national scheme to create road tolls across the UK is not feasible, as the technology does not exist and is unlikely to exist before 2015 at the earliest."




VOTE RESULTS
Would you support the introduction of road charging?
Yes
 21.42% 
No
 74.46% 
Don't know
 4.12% 
32694 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Congestion charging in Edinburgh was rejected



SEE ALSO
Motorists 'must pay for road use'
01 Dec 06 |  UK Politics
Court considers congestion charge
03 Feb 05 |  Scotland
'Green city' or 'hollow doughnut'
17 Jan 05 |  Scotland
Road toll plan given green light
18 Oct 04 |  Scotland

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