- Bridges may return to public hands in 2018
- Lib Dems say they would abolish tolls
- News welcomed by business and associations
Tolls for Severn Bridge crossings should be scrapped in order to help small businesses, says the FTA. The £12.80 charge is seen as excessive by many van owners in the area, and has led the Liberal Democrats to abolish the tolls in their ‘Pre Manifesto’. One study suggests that over 11,000 extra crossings a year would be made if the fee was abolished.
Back into public hands
Both bridges, the Severn Bridge and Second Severn Crossing, are managed by Severn River Crossings Plc, a company owned by private investors. The bridges are expected to be handed back to the public in 2018, however, so far only the Liberal Democrats have stated they would abolish the toll if they took control.
The announcement was welcomed by many local businesses and associations, including the FTA, who said the tolls have been a burden for years.
Enormous cost to businesses
“The impact of the continued increase in the cost of the tolls on business, particularly transport and freight businesses, have been enormous and continue to be so”, explains Denise Lovering, Chair of FTA’s Welsh Freight Council.
“Severn Bridge tolls are a major factor in the lack of Regional Distribution Centres in Wales, and when you find out that the cost to some companies is in excess of £500,000 a year it doesn’t take much to understand what a boost to the economy the removal of the tolls would be. It would also signal that Wales is open for business and you don’t have to pay to come in”.
Tax for entering Wales
Tolls for both bridges are collected for westbound traffic only, and have led many campaigners to claim it’s a ‘tax for entering Wales’.
The time taken to travel the 3.7 miles from Aust in Gloucestershire to Mathern in Wales takes around six minutes using the Severn Bridge, however it would take about an hour and a half to travel to the same destination avoiding the toll.
“FTA, working in partnership with its members, has been vocal in pressing for a reduction in tolls for many years”, added Ian Gallagher, Head of Policy for FTA Wales.
“For them to be scrapped altogether would be a marvellous outcome - one which would be welcomed by hard-pressed businesses that rely on the crossing. We hope to see this policy included in all the main political party manifestos”.