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Severn tolls: Conservative election pledge to scrap charges

image captionCongestion at the toll booths has been an issue as well as the cost of the crossing

The Conservatives will scrap the Severn Bridge tolls if they win the general election, Theresa May has said, predicting a £100m economic boost.

The pledge goes further than the existing plan to halve the tolls - currently £6.70 for cars - by 2018.

The Labour Party said it was committed to working with the Welsh Government to end the charges.

First Minister Carwyn Jones welcomed what he described as the "conversion" of the Tories to scrapping the tolls.

The prime minister and Conservative leader said the move would "strengthen links" between south Wales and the west of England.

"I want to ensure that our economic progress is shared across the United Kingdom," Mrs May said.

media captionCarwyn Jones says the Tories had refused all calls to abolish the tolls for many years

The two crossings will be operated by Highways England when they return to public ownership in 2018. Annual maintenance costs are estimated at around £7m per year.

Several opposing politicians and parties reacted by pointing out they had been campaigning for the abolition of the tolls before the prime minister's announcement.

In the Senedd, Mr Jones was dismissive, telling AMs: "For how many years have we stood in this chamber demanding the end of the Severn Bridge tolls?

"I welcome their conversion but at the end of the day, let's face it, the Conservatives would not have abolished the Severn Bridge tolls if it wasn't for the strong action and strong position taken by this Welsh Government."

A UKIP Wales spokesman said: "This is yet another UKIP policy stolen by Theresa May and the Tories. UKIP has led the debate on this topic over the past year in the National Assembly.

"We are encouraged that the other parties agree with us now that it is election time, but they don't exactly have a very good track record in delivering on their promises."

media captionBBC Wales political editor Nick Servini says it is not a "huge surprise" a party has pledged to end the Severn tolls

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Mark Williams said: "The tolls on the Severn Bridge are a very real strain on local businesses and hold back the Welsh economy.

"The Liberal Democrats have long made the case for the tolls to be scrapped and now conveniently, just weeks before an election, Theresa May digs deep to find some good-will for Wales."

A Plaid Cymru spokeswoman said: "The Conservatives trying to coax Welsh voters to support them with promises of a cut to the Severn Bridge toll is laughable.

"They have spent years prevaricating and had ample opportunity to do this, but they have refused."

Related Topics

  • Conservative Party
  • Wales economy
  • Prince of Wales Bridge

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