A THINK TANK which earlier this year named Reading one of the country's most successful towns says it should abandon its push for public transport funds linked to congestion charging.

Centre for Cities (CfC) says that while it backs road pricing, it is unpopular and unfeasible to introduce in a downturn. Reading, Cambridge and a few others are considering bids to the Government's Transport Innovation Fund (Tif) for hundreds of millions in public transport cash, which must be linked to demand management measures, usually congestion charging.

CfC director Dermot Finch said: "Cities like Manchester and Edinburgh have found congestion charging a tough sell. Other cities considering a charge - like Cambridge, Reading and Bristol - are undecided. If there are no takers by the end of the year, the Government should call it a day."

He said the £1bn sat in the Tif could dwindle away as the bid process drags on and that it should be safeguarded but unlinked from congestion charging. He wants instead an urban transport investment fund aimed at big connurbations with urgent transport needs like Reading, giving councils more control and getting business on board.

Report author Adam Marshall said: "A decade of increased spending has not closed the infrastructure gap faced by cities like Manchester, Cambridge, Reading or Bristol. New sources of transport investment will be urgently required."

He said public reaction to congestion charge-linked Tif bids in Manchester and Cambridge showed the system needed rethinking. He said councils should use more of the money from business rates on local transport - an approach endorsed by the Conservatives.

Reading's Tory transport spokesman Richard Willis said: "Local authorities should not have their hands tied to congestion charging when bidding for Tif and we've welcomed David Cameron's proposal to decouple the two. There's a need for transport funding ideas that tackle congestion across local authority areas - Reading can't really do it on its own. None of us want to see congestion charging."

View the report at: www.tinyurl.com/ReadingTIF