Wales

Severn river tolls rise 20p for cars and 80p for HGVs

Severn Crossing tolls
Image caption Car drivers will pay £5.70 to use the two Severn crossings into Wales from January

Car drivers will pay 20p more to use the two Severn crossings from next year, with the toll rising to £5.70.

Toll increases for the Severn bridges in January were announced to MPs on the Welsh Affairs Select Committee by the UK Transport Minister Mike Penning.

Van drivers will pay 60p more than the current £10.90, and HGV tolls will rise by 80p to £17.20.

Two transport firms which spend more than £200,000 on tolls between them say they had hoped for a toll freeze.

The tolls are linked to inflation but Mr Penning said there would be no extra rise despite the increase in VAT.

He told the committee that queuing onto the Second Severn Crossing affects the Welsh economy.

Mike Penning said that while he did not think that the tolls themselves had a negative affect on Wales' economy, he thought more should be done in order to minimise the time motorists have to queue to pay their tolls.

He said: "The queuing and the congestion does affect the economy, there's no doubt about that, because it's all to do with perception."

There have been calls to introduce card payment machines on the tolls as well as using technology so that motorists can pay online before arriving at the tolls.

Mike Penning said that the way the original contract with the Severn River Crossing (SRC) company was "very restrictive" on what the UK government could do.

Mr Penning said: "This particular contract makes it difficult to absorb technology" but insisted the UK government would be working with SRC to change the agreement.

This could involve the UK government compensating the company for any extra money they would have to spend to introduce any new technology.

A spokewoman for Caerphilly-based Glenside Commercials and Llanelli-based Owens Transport Services said the firms' spending on tolls "will obviously increase in the wake of the rise in January".

Katherine Williams-Davies said: "In view of the Welsh Assembly Government looking at the impact of the tolls on the Welsh economy and the current enquiry by the Welsh Affairs Committee, we were hopeful that there would be a freeze on the tolls this year.

"Transport costs for most companies just keep rising.

'Cheaper tolls'

"We all have to pay the increases in fuel duty and road fund licences if we want to keep our vehicles on the road and to also have to bear the added burden of year-on-year rises in the cost of the Severn tolls just adds to the pressure."

Last week the Welsh MPs committee heard the tolls on both Severn crossings should be much cheaper once the concession to run them ends in 2017.

Severn Crossing Plc General Manager Jim Clune said only maintenance and running costs would need to be covered after that date.

Mr Clune told MPs the tolls cost £15m a year to run and maintain, but generate a net revenue of £77m a year at today's prices.

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