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Severn Crossings

Volume 497: debated on Thursday 22 October 2009

Under the concession agreement, there is a need for a wide range of regular meetings with the concessionaire, Severn River Crossing plc, regarding day-to-day routine operational and maintenance issues, financial and contractual matters, and contingency planning. Issues recently discussed include operational maintenance, planning for events, including the Ryder cup in 2010, and the use of tag and credit or debit cards for Severn bridge toll payments.

The Minister will be aware that users of the Severn bridges can pay by cash, cheques or euros, but not by credit or debit cards, which is particularly incomprehensible for first-time visitors to Wales and causes a lot of inconvenience. Will he reassure my constituents that this long-standing issue is moving to a satisfactory conclusion?

I have been reading the letters that my hon. Friend has written to the Department, and the Hansard reports of the questions that she has raised. The Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Chris Mole), has reminded me that he met the Highways Agency as a direct result of her representations. She will be pleased to know that, in parallel with the negotiations with the concessionaire, we have proposed the necessary amendments to secondary legislation to permit debit and credit card payments at the Severn crossing. As a consequence of her representations, the agency has asked the Severn River Commission to consider the feasibility of introducing a variant of the season tag, which would be suitable for regular car-share groups.