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Severn Bridge Tolls

Volume 577: debated on Thursday 20 March 2014

The UK Government are committed to the continued successful operation of these vital crossings. No decisions have been taken on future management or tolling arrangements on the crossings after the end of the current concession. However, any future regime would need to recover the costs it has incurred relating to the crossings, make provision for maintenance of the crossings and reflect the interests of roads users in England and Wales.

If the toll since the first bridge was built in 1966 had increased simply in line with inflation, it would be just over £2 today, yet it is now £6.40 for a car. That is a tax on the south Wales economy, as the tolls operate only in one direction. Should the Government not give careful consideration to reducing the tolls when the opportunity arises or getting rid of them altogether?

At the end of the concession period VAT will no longer be payable, so the Government of the day could take a decision based on that. Tolls for heavy goods vehicles are comparable with those at other crossings. For example, after taking account of the fact that crossing is free in one direction, the toll at the Humber crossing is £12 to save 45 miles, and the toll at the Severn is £9.60 to save 52 miles.

The Minister will know from the recent debate in Westminster Hall that the old Severn bridge is entirely in England and half of it is in my constituency. When he is considering the future use of toll revenue, will he bear in mind my request for consideration of a third Severn crossing to relieve traffic congestion in my constituency, and whether toll revenue may be used to part-fund that if that is entirely necessary?

The Government should certainly consider that. Indeed, the announcement in yesterday’s Budget on the Merseylink crossing indicates that there can be some cross-subsidisation of crossings to fund new provision.