Beginning of the end for Severn tolls

January 10 2018   | Region: Cymru Wales, South West

Beginning of the end for Severn tolls
Charges levied on those entering Wales via the Severn Crossings have been reduced from this week, marking a key step towards their abolition at the end of the year.
The structures returned to public ownership on Monday meaning vehicle charges are now exempt from VAT, reducing the toll for individual crossings by car from £6.70 to £5.60.
This marks the first time the tolls have decreased since their introduction in 1966. Goods vehicles weighing up to 3.5t now pay £11.20 rather than £13.40, while vehicles over 3.5t see tolls reduced from £20 to £16.70.
Charges are due to be removed altogether by the end of 2018, with estimates suggesting that the move could boost the Welsh economy by £100M a year and save commuters a potential £1400 annually.
“The major level of tolls on the Severn Crossings has represented a drag and barrier to Wales’ economic growth for over half a century,” said the Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns.
Their removal, he added, will be a boost to commuters, tourists and business owners, and will create “a growth corridor spanning from Cardiff through Newport to Bristol”.
Business group CBI Wales director Ian Price welcomed this week’s toll reduction as a step in the right direction. “We should use the months ahead to ensure the abolition of the tolls at the end of 2018 goes without a hitch, taking steps to minimise traffic issues and maximising the significant opportunities for business,” he said.
The Freight Transport Association’s policy manager for Wales and the South West Ian Gallagher said: “At such an uncertain time for the logistics industry, the injection of capital previously used for the payment of tolls will go a long way to future proofing those businesses which keep Wales and England trading.”
But he also called for a guarantee that charges would not be reintroduced at some point in the future. This, he said, would provide certainty for businesses looking to invest along the M4 corridor.
Responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the bridges is now managed by Highways England.
Keeping reduced charges in place for 12 months will allow it to collect around £100M in revenue, which will be used to operate the crossings, remove all tolling equipment, and recover some costs that taxpayers historically incurred in the maintenance of the bridges.
Annual maintenance and operational costs are thought to average £15M between both bridges.
(Photo: Gareth Thompson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Common Licence)

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