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Forth And Tay Road Bridges

Volume 884: debated on Wednesday 22 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the number of years which will elapse before the total debt on the Forth and Tay road bridges will be repaid by the tolls levied; and if he will make a statement.

In present circumstances any forecasts must be speculative, but the most recent reviews suggest that with the present level of tolls the repayment periods for the Forth and Tay bridges would be about 20 and 40 years from today's date, respectively.

Does not the Minister of State agree that it would be a good plan, if he cannot implement the bad things in his own party's programme, to implement the Conservative Party's programme to abolish the tolls on both these bridges?

It had escaped me that that was in the programme. It had certainly escaped me up to February 1974.

Does my hon. Friend recognise that, in principle, I have always been against tolls on these bridges? Now that we have some very late conversions to this principle, will he look at the matter again? It is quite clear that the imposition of tolls is unnecessary and inconvenient, and that it will never pay for the cost of the bridge, and should not be expected to do so.

As I think my original answer made clear, the debt will be re, paid in the period I have mentioned. I know that there are strong feelings about tolls. I am sorry to tell my hon. Friend that I see no prospect of having these tolls removed.

As the toll booths are never all in operation at once, will the Minister explain why it has been necessary to spend £300,000 to erect eight more, which are not yet open? If his figure of 20 years is correct, does he appreciate that I, for one, will be a major contributor in paying off the debt?

That is one of the cheerful aspects of the situation. I shall look into the question of the extra toll booths. I think that they were started by the Conservative Secretary of State.

Is my hon. Friend aware that Fife County Council is mounting a campaign to get these tolls abolished on both road bridges? What can we expect when those representations are made?

Is my hon. Friend also aware—this answers the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour)—that a deputation of Members of Parliament from Fife, Edinburgh and other areas went to see the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) a few years ago, and he turned us down flat?

I am aware of that. I note that a campaign is being mounted. I think that there has been a permanent campaign. I am sorry to make these discouraging noises, but I honestly do not see that these tolls can be abolished in present circumstances. I may as welt state that absolutely frankly.