Freeze the Severn Bridge tolls, demands FTA
Friday 03 September 2010
The Freight Transport Association has left the Welsh Affairs Committee (WAC) in no doubt about its views on the Severn Crossing tolls. In FTA’s written submission to the WAC Inquiry, the leading trade body has highlighted the damage that unchecked and successive price increases have made on businesses and urged Government to freeze toll levels in 2011.
Ian Gallagher, FTA’s Policy Manager for Wales and the South West, said:
“It is absolutely ludicrous that businesses still trying to recover from the worst recession in recent history are being held to ransom by gratuitous and cynical price hikes across what is an essential trade corridor connecting England with south Wales. Some of our members spend many thousands of pounds on these tolls every month – it is simply unsustainable.”
FTA has also recommended that the crossing operator considers the deployment of more flexible payment methods, in line with other tolling systems in operation across the UK.
“A reduced rate for off-peak travel for commercial vehicles, for example – would engender greater benefits in terms of congestion, emissions and cost, and should certainly be considered in 2017 when the bridge is expected to be back in public ownership. At the very least, users should be given the option of credit and debit card payments, a service which Severn River Crossing plc are legally able to introduce today.”
Taken as a comparison alongside other UK tolled infrastructure, it becomes increasingly clear that users of the Severn Bridge are paying considerably more than elsewhere in the country.
“Companies doing business between England and South Wales are effectively being taxed for the privilege. This simply has to stop or else we risk the recovery of the Welsh economy as a whole.
“A UK-wide infrastructure tolling policy would remove the massive disparity that currently exists, and could safeguard users against future, unmonitored concessionary price rises.”
Notes for editors
1. At its first inquiry the Welsh Affairs Committee has called for a study into the ‘Severn Crossing Tolls’. The Committee will examine:
• The impact of the tolls on the Welsh economy including businesses, local residents and tourists;
• The current level of toll prices and the available methods of payment;
• The current condition of the bridges and the costs associated with ongoing maintenance, and;
• The futures of the bridges after the crossings have reverted to public ownership.
The Committee asked for written submissions on these issues by the deadline date of Friday 3 September 2010. Public oral evidence sessions are expected to take place in October and November 2010, with a Committee visit to the Severn Bridges scheduled for 16th September.
2. The tolls on the Severn are the highest in the UK and rise each year in line with the Severn Bridges Act 1992 and are adjusted by the Retail Price Index.
3. Toll prices on the Severn Crossing increased by 10 pence per lorry in the New Year 2010.
4. FTA has suggested amending the current contract with the bridge’s builders, Severn River Crossing plc, to reduce the level of tolls but to levy them over a longer period of time. This would still accrue the same level of income but would place less of a burden on businesses. FTA is also advocating a lower tariff for night-time crossings for commercial vehicles.
FTA Press Office