Businesses and drivers welcome Severn toll cut
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.”