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Labor should put tolls on the level crossings they remove and use the money to help pay for projects such as the metro rail tunnel, one of the state's leading transport thinkers says
Daniel Andrews at the Balcombe Road level crossing in Mentone. Photo: Penny Stephens
The Andrews government has promised to remove 50 level crossings in eight years and Professor John Stanley believes motorists who will benefit from the removal of traffic-choking boom gates should pay a small toll for the time they save.
Speaking this week on a panel organised by Engineers Australia, Professor Stanley of the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies said the revenue could go into a transport fund that would help the government deliver a long-term plan for Melbourne.
"The general principle is you identify who the beneficiaries are from implementing public policy initiatives and ask them to make a contribution, and the people who are going to benefit from this are the motor vehicle users who get a better run," he later told Fairfax Media.
He said a toll of "about a dollar a passage" would be fair.
The new Andrews government has already admitted it will struggle to make good on all of its transport plans in the current political and economic environment.
Treasurer Tim Pallas told Fairfax Media on Tuesday that Labor was unlikely to build the $9 billion Melbourne Metro rail tunnel without funding from the Abbott government.
RACV public policy head Brian Negus said tolling level crossings would be impractical.
He said some on Labor's list could be removed in a public-private partnership, with the private sector given development rights around the rail line.
"If you remove six or seven together in one package and put those out to the private sector in a value capture arrangement with government funding as well, that's a good way of trying to deliver them," he said.
But a lobby group focused on land prices and social equity said the Andrews government should be grander in its thinking and impose special levies on land owners along the route of the Melbourne Metro tunnel.
Not-for-profit group Prosper Australia argues the Abbott government's resistance to fund the project should not stop it.
It wants the government's "value capture" plans for level crossings expanded to properties along the metro line, which would run from South Kensington to South Yarra, and travel under Swanston Street.
"Land prices along this route will soar and government is entitled to use some of this to fund the project," Prosper Australia's Karl Fitzgerald said.
"People forget 30 per cent of the Melbourne underground loop was funded by a special city levy on land values from 1963."
One real estate industry figure said imposing such a special levy on land along the route would be met with spirited opposition from property groups.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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