Busi­nesses and driv­ers wel­come Sev­ern toll cut

South Wales Echo - - NEWS -

GOV­ERN­MENT plans to slash the Sev­ern Cross­ing tolls have been wel­comed by busi­nesses and driv­ers.

A con­sul­ta­tion by the UK Gov­ern­ment into op­tions to make us­ing the cross­ings cheaper and quicker has been an­nounced.

Sug­ges­tions in­clude cut­ting the cost for car driv­ers to £3.

Free-flow­ing, two-way tolls could also be in­tro­duced.

If tolls were in­tro­duced both ways, the cost would be re­duced to £1.50 each way on both cross­ings.

The Gov­ern­ment says it will make a dif­fer­ence to com­muters, trav­ellers and in par­tic­u­lar small busi­nesses, adding that re­mov­ing the bar­ri­ers in a free-flow sys­tem would help re­duce con­ges­tion and jour­ney times for peo­ple us­ing both cross­ings.

The changes will come into force when the cross­ings re­turn to pub­lic own­er­ship next year.

Cars would pay £3 in­stead of £6.70 – more than a 50% sav­ing, small buses or vans will pay £3, down from £13.40 – a sav­ing of 75%.

Lor­ries and coaches will pay in­stead of £20 – a sav­ing of 50%.

TAG Toll charges will also re­duce, sav­ing car driv­ers £65.12 a month, small buses and van driv­ers £183 a month, lor­ries and coaches £1.98 a month, while Blue Badge hold­ers and mo­tor­cy­cles will con­tinue to be ex­empt from the tolls.

The money raised will pay for the op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance of the cross­ings as well as fu­ture im­prove­ments.

Denise Lover­ing has been a long-time lob­by­ist to re­duce the tolls to ben­e­fit busi­nesses.

Mrs Lover­ing, a mem­ber of the Welsh Freight Coun­cil, said: “Re­duc­ing the tolls is a good thing. But when you bear in mind that it makes £100m a year, even cut­ting that by half means they still have room for ma­noeu­vre.”

She said main­te­nance es­ti­mates are be­tween £10m and £20m a year, with most spent on the old cross­ing.

“There is room for it to come down even more,” she added. £10

“It’s been a long, long time com­ing as we have been lob­by­ing for more than 10 years. Com­mon sense has pre­vailed.”

She said there is no rea­son free-flow­ing tolls could not be in­tro­duced – as they work suc­cess­fully in Dart­ford and in places across Europe.

Welsh Sec­re­tary Alun Cairns said some have ar­gued that the tolls should re­main to ease con­ges­tion, but added: “I think we have struck the right bal­ance. We’re re­duc­ing the tolls and re­pay­ing the debt but also es­tab­lish­ing a sum of money that will al­low for in­no­va­tion but also to main­tain the bridge in tip-top con­di­tion.”

He said while other UK bridges have had to close for main­te­nance work, he is “de­ter­mined” that will not hap­pen at the Sev­ern Cross­ing so that “Wales re­mains open for busi­ness”.

Cardiff Cen­tral MP Jo Stevens said: “Af­ter tire­less cam­paign­ing from lo­cal Labour MPs and many com­muters, this long over­due an­nounce­ment that the gov­ern­ment will fi­nally be low­er­ing the toll is good news for busi­nesses and com­muters in South Wales.

“How­ever, with lit­tle con­crete in­for­ma­tion about how the free-flow­ing sys­tem will work in prac­tice, the devil will be in the de­tail and I will be push­ing min­is­ters to en­sure any changes leave peo­ple bet­ter off.

“I’ll look at the con­sul­ta­tion care­fully, I en­cour­age as many peo­ple and busi­nesses as pos­si­ble to re­spond to the con­sul­ta­tion and I hope the gov­ern­ment will con­sider se­ri­ously the views of those who think the charges need to be dropped en­tirely.”

Cardiff South and Pe­narth Labour MP Stephen Doughty added: “Along with other South Wales MPs I have long cam­paigned for the abo­li­tion of the tolls once the con­struc­tion con­ces­sion was re­paid.

“Re­duc­ing them is a step for­ward, as well as the pos­si­bil­ity of free flow tech­nol­ogy – but I and many other com­muters and busi­nesses in Cardiff and the Vale want to see them com­pletely re­moved.”

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