South East Wales

Severn bridges to accept card payments before Ryder Cup

Second Severn Crossing
Image caption Updated bridge payment methods were promised in time for the Ryder Cup

Drivers entering Wales using the Severn bridges will be able to pay by debit and credit card before Newport hosts golf's Ryder Cup in a fortnight.

David Davies, chair of the Welsh affairs committee, made the announcement during a visit to the bridges.

He said this was a temporary measure while the company running the crossings works on a long-term solution.

Thousands of fans will cross the bridges for the event, on 1-3 October.

However, drivers wil be encouraged to use cash to pay the toll charge as card payments will be taken using "slow" hand held card readers and not a "fast swipe and use system," Mr Davies, the Monmouth MP, said.

Economy boost

Earlier, Vale of Glamorgan MP Alun Cairns had said it was "such an important occasion" and a short-term answer may have to be found.

In June Transport Minister Norman Baker promised that the new payment methods would be in place for the tournament between Europe and the United States, which runs from October 1-3.

Some 45,000 people are due to attend the tournament on each of the three days and it has been calculated that the event will boost the Welsh economy by at least £73m.

In a statement before Mr Davies's announcement the Highways Agency said: "Discussions between the Highways Agency and the concessionaire, Severn River Crossings plc, to resolve the financial issues regarding the introduction of card payments are ongoing."

"Work to amend the tolling software to allow for the processing of credit and debit cards had started.

"We hope the matter will be resolved before the Ryder Cup begins."

Responding to the Highways Agency's statement, committee member Mr Cairns said: "I would urge the government and the tolling company to do everything possible in order to deliver this.

The Tory MP for the Vale of Glamorgan added: "This is such an important occasion for Wales. Arguing or debating over commission payments, if that is the reason, is simply unacceptable."

Speaking before the visit, Jessica Morden, the Labour MP for Newport East who is also on the committee, said she was "very disappointed" that the issue had not yet been resolved.

Toll prices

"They should allow the public to pay to use the bridges with the most convenient modern bridges," she said.

"It should be a relatively simple thing to sort out."

Meanwhile, evidence sessions for the committee's inquiry into the bridges will begin in October.

Among issues to be discussed will be toll prices, the impact of the tolls on the Welsh economy, the condition of the bridges and maintenance costs.

The Welsh affairs committee is to examine the future of the bridges after the crossings have reverted to public ownership.

Currently operated by a private company, the Severn Bridge will return to government ownership when the firm has collected a fixed sum of money from tolls.

In June Mr Baker said the bridge could return to government hands by 2017 based on current estimates of toll earnings.

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