Welsh MPs suggest £1.50 Severn Crossings tolls for cars

  • 22 December 2010
  • From the section Wales

Tolls should be slashed on the Severn Crossings to as little as £1.50, once they revert to public ownership, says a group of MPs.

Reductions to a fifth are proposed by the Welsh Affairs Committee from 2017 and it wants the toll cut "at the earliest opportunity".

The tolls, which rise for cars on the M4 and M48 to £5.70 in January, are called a "barrier to business".

Severn River Crossing Plc has been asked to comment.

The Welsh Affairs Committee makes a host of recommendations, including concessions for some businesses.

The tolls are charged on both the M4 and M48 motorways as vehicles cross into Wales.

The old Severn Bridge opened in 1966, while the £300m second Severn crossing opened 30 years later. The MPs said they cost £15m a year to run and maintain but they raise £72m in revenue.

The committee report, published on Wednesday, was commissioned to assess the impact the Severn Crossings toll has on the economy of south Wales and beyond.

But the MPs found much evidence was anecdotal and now recommends harder evidence is gathered about the economic effects of the toll on both sides of the border.

'Cash cow'

Committee chair David Davies, the MP for Monmouth, said: "We are very concerned by anecdotal reports that the level of the toll has put some people off investing in Wales and more hard evidence must be gathered about their economic impact.

"Unfortunately, due to the inflexible provisions of the 1992 Severn Crossings Act, neither the government nor Severn Crossings Plc is able to freeze or reduce the toll without incurring significant costs."

He also accused the company of being "pretty haphazard" in introducing modern payment technology, saying, in all likelihood, it "would not have happened at all if Wales had not hosted the Ryder Cup this year".

Mr Davies added: "The antiquated payment system in place until then had given visitors to Wales a poor first impression of the country.

"The government should invest now in free-flow payment technology without delay and recoup the cost when the crossings transfer to public ownership at the end of the concession period in or around 2017.

"At the same time, tolling prices should be reduced and concessions for those who depend on the crossings for their livelihood could be introduced.

"The government must not be tempted to use the toll as a convenient 'cash cow'," he added.

The report said: "With running costs of £15m a year, and a current yearly income of £72m, we estimate that the toll could be reduced to a fifth of its current level, to approximately £1.50 while allowing the crossings to remain self-financing.

"We recommend that the government should seek to reduce the level of the toll at the earliest opportunity."

The Welsh Affairs Committee heard last month that most of the money the tolls raise is used to cover debts.

Severn River Crossing Plc General Manager Jim Clune told MPs only maintenance and running costs would need to be covered after 2017.

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