Cards for Severn Bridge 'by Ryder Cup'

Image caption, The second Severn Bridge was opened in 1996

Credit and debit card payments could be accepted on the Severn Bridge in time for golf's Ryder Cup in October.

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport Norman Baker told a Westminster Hall debate that the new payment methods would be in place for the international golf event.

Newport East MP Jessica Morden welcomed the commitment.

Speaking in the debate, she said: "Payment of the tolls is expensive, inconvenient and inflexible."

'Real impact'

She told BBC Wales: "The ability to pay only in cash has a real impact on first time visitors to Wales who have in the past had to be escorted back to the nearest services in order to obtain cash."

As well as cash, drivers can currently buy an electronic card, called Tag, which can be used for single or multiple journeys.

Mr Baker also told the debate that he did not expect to pass on the recently-announced VAT rise to the tolls on the bridge.

Ms Morden said: "We'd welcome them not passing on the VAT rise but we'd like to see them freeze the tolls anyway."

She told the debate: "We are going through tough economic times, commuters having their hours cut back, and experiencing pay freezes, high petrol prices yet the tolls still go up.

"Severn bridge tolls are the most expensive in the UK for cars costing £5.50."

The inability to pay with a debit or credit card at the Seven Bridge has been an issue for some motorists over the years.

Ms Morden said: "The equipment is being implemented now. There are still ongoing discussions around card payment charges."

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.

Mr Baker told the debate that the bridge could return to government hands by 2017 based on current estimates of toll earnings.

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