Letter: How to pay for the Tube

HOW can we pay for new public transport infrastructure? Cathy Aitchison points out ('Short-term funds go down the tube', Business, 9 January) that much of the benefit of the underground is 'captured away from the fare box' and that 'a hypothecated tax dedicated specifically to the Underground' could be introduced if ways were found of measuring such benefits.

This task is surprisingly simple. This is because the benefits of public transport infrastructure ultimately settle in land values: rents and property prices rise to reflect the advantages of improved access. A study made by London Transport after the construction of the Victoria Line showed that it had enhanced land values by considerably more than it had cost to build the line. Before the Victoria Line was built, Islington and Pimlico were not the desirable areas they are today. The effect of the Tube on land values can be seen just by comparing house prices in Islington with those of similar properties little more than a mile away in Stoke Newington, where the only access to central London is by bus.

Thus, the solution to the problem of paying for the Underground is obvious: an annual rate based on land values. This would claw back the benefits which are captured away from the fare box and provide a permanent and buoyant source of funding.

M Gelman

Hove, Sussex