Government plans to reduce the Severn Crossing tolls have met with a mixed reaction.
The proposals – currently out for consultation – would see the prices paid for cars more than halved to £3 from £6.70. Vans and small buses however would see the biggest saving, with the toll slashed 75% to £3.00, down from £13.40. Lorries and coaches would pay £10 instead of £20; a saving of 50%. Blue Badge holders and motorcycles will continue to be exempt from the tolls.
The restructured tolls come as the bridges return to public ownership, managed by Highways England. The proposals include free-flow tolling, as per the Dartford Tunnel, helping cut congestion and journey times but also enabling two-way charging, which could mean the price charged for a single crossing will be halved.
The money raised will pay for the operation and maintenance of the crossings as well as future improvements.
Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said: “This is excellent news for people living and working in Wales who use the Severn Bridge, particularly van drivers who will pay over 75% less money.”
However, the Freight Transport Association (FTA), which has lobbied government hard to either remove the tolls altogether or introduce a maintenance cost only, said it was disappointed that the consultation does not go further.
Ian Gallagher, head of policy for Wales at the FTA, said: “While the reductions are welcome, the Government had a real opportunity to provide a boost to the Welsh economy by scrapping the £63m debt and introducing lower charges. Realistically, the FTA is keen to see out of hours travel permitted free of charge, as well as incentivisation for the take up of the TAG system.”
The FTA added that benefits for fleet operators using the TAG will only apply after 20 crossings.
“Making 20 crossings or more is a significant monetary commitment for fleet operators,” continued Gallagher, “and one which the association will continue to lobby government on, to ensure the threshold is revisited at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Commenting on the possible introduction of free flow technology, which could enable two-way charging and halve the pricing for a single crossing, Gallagher added: “At a time of continuing economic uncertainty, when businesses are already facing increased pressure on turnover thanks to changes in currency values, these reductions are, on the whole, very welcome indeed. However, the association will continue to lobby for further reductions and incentives for hard pressed operators.
“The Severn Crossing is a vital artery linking Wales with England and trading routes on into Europe, and these savings will ensure that businesses on both sides of the Severn can continue to trade at the most competitive rates with their customers.”
For more of the latest industry news, click here.