Mayor of London Boris Johnson used his visit to the Streets Ahead exhibition at The Building Centre to outline proposals for two new tunnels across London. Johnson was speaking after being shown around the Transport for London-supported exhibition by Peter Murray, chairman of New London Architecture, who lead the curation of the show.
Transport for London will conduct the study for the tunnels, the first running from Park Royal to Hackney Wick, the second from Chiswick to Beckton.
Challenged about the pay-mechanism of tolling by a journalist from radio station LBC, Johnson defended the possibility of tunnel tolls on the basis that, “unless you finance these things seriously you won’t get support from the government. They won’t put any money into it unless they think we are going to try and raise money from motorists.”
Sweeping up history, apparent business sense and glorious tradition, Johnson noted with typical rhetorical swagger that, “since the dawn of London infrastructure, we have done it by tolling. London Bridge was built with a toll, indeed the London Bridge Trust still exists because they raised so much money from the tolls for London Bridge, and is a very rich body. The only way to do such projects is to have a sensible approach to the financing of them which effectively charges the users in some way.”
When pressed as to the fairness of this, especially to small businesses, Johnson said the decision about paying for it will be for someone else. But the key question to address is to make sure tolling doesn’t introduce unwanted consequences. “How do you stop distortions entering into people’s travel plans so they don’t go for [avoid] the paying crossings and go like lemmings for the ones that aren’t charged?” A tax on behaving like a lemming may be the only option.