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Severn Bridge (Toll Exemptions)

Volume 517: debated on Wednesday 3 November 2010

3. What recent discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues on an exemption from Severn bridge toll charges for serving armed forces personnel. (20325)

I have regular meetings with ministerial colleagues regarding transport issues in Wales. I recently met the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), to discuss the Severn bridge tolls. In particular we discussed the possibility of offering various discounts once the concession ends.

Does my hon. Friend agree that we ought to honour our armed forces by giving them concessionary fares, as happens in France and the United States?

We certainly ought to honour our armed forces. The issue with the Severn bridge is that it is currently managed by a concessionary company, Severn River Crossing plc, and that the concession is likely to continue until 2017. Until then, discounts are entirely a matter for the company, but when the concession ends the Government will be responsible for tolling and might well consider further concessions.

Does the Minister agree that the tolls act as a tax on the economic gateway to inward investment in Wales? Will he consider reducing the tolls for the maintenance charges when the Severn bridge comes into public ownership in 2016 to encourage inward investment and prosperity at a time when the Welsh have been hit so badly by the comprehensive spending review?

I understand what the hon. Gentleman says. Clearly there would be more of an economic barrier if the crossing were not there, but he is right that when the concession comes to an end in 2016-17 it will be possible to review the tolls and see whether, for example, they should be charged only in one direction or both.