The Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling on all parties in the National Assembly to support the Liberal Democrat policy of scrapping the Severn Bridge tolls when the bridges come back into public ownership.
The Severn Crossings are currently managed by a private concessionaire. The concession will end when a revenue target collected from tolls is reached. Current forecasts are that the concession will end in 2018. Once the tolls are transferred into public ownership and debts are repaid, the Liberal Democrats have pledged to scrap the tolls completely.
Scrapping the tolls will be a manifesto commitment in the up and coming General Election.
The Severn Bridge tolls are the most expensive in the UK. It now costs £6.40 for a car to cross the bridge, £12.80 for a van, and £19.20 for a coach or lorry.
Eluned Parrott, Assembly Member for South Wales Central, said:
“The Liberal Democrats are the only party who will scrap the unfair Severn Bridge tolls. We are holding a debate this week on this issue to allow other parties to state their position. It will not be long before the bridges come back into public ownership, so it is time other parties started taking what happens next seriously.
“Scrapping the tolls would help rebalance the economy and drive growth in a part of the country that is typically deprived. It is a fact that the tolls have been a barrier to the Welsh economy.
“By scrapping the tolls, the Liberal Democrats would be boosting the South Wales economy by around £107 million a year.”
Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said:
“First impressions do matter and if the lasting impression for many of Wales’ visitors is a less than positive one, then we should be doing all we can to address this.
“Motorway tolls are not prevalent across the United Kingdom. So why on earth should people be forced to pay a tax to enter Wales?
“Not only would scrapping the tolls boost Wales’ economy, but it would save the average commuter around £1,535 a year. This policy is an important step along the way to helping build a stronger economy, and also a fairer society.”
The petition to scrap the tolls can be found here.
By scrapping the tolls, the Liberal Democrats would boost the South Wales economy by around £107 million a year according to the Welsh Government’s report into the tolls – Welsh Government: The impact of the Severn Tolls on the Welsh economy (November 2012)
Scrapping the tolls would save the average commuter around £1,536 a year.
The direct toll costs imposed on businesses are roughly estimated to be £47m (excluding VAT in 2009 prices), with £34m (including VAT) paid by consumers.
The annual cost of running the bridges is around £15m. The current operating costs are £12m a year and are made up of maintenance and toll collection, including toll collection infrastructure. Additionally, the Highways Agency spends an average of £3m on latent defects.
There are no toll roads or bridges in Northern Ireland, and there have been no toll bridges in Scotland since 2008, when the Scottish Parliament passed the Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill.