Severn bridges journeys up over Christmas after toll axe

The two Severn Crossings from the air Image copyright MJRichardson/Geograph
Image caption Maintenance of the two Severn bridges costs on average £6m a year

A record number of vehicles came to Wales over the Severn bridges at Christmas, following the scrapping of the charge to cross.

Highways England has released its first traffic figures for the bridges since the tolls were abolished on 17 December.

But the agency said it was too early to gauge if the rise was an effect of removing the charge.

It used to cost cars £5.60 and HGVs £16.70 to make the westbound crossing.

The snapshot for the week between Christmas Day and New Year's Eve shows 194,631 vehicles made westbound crossings on the M4 Prince of Wales Bridge in 2018, up from 164,909 in the same week in 2017 - an increase of 18%.

Meanwhile there were 59,854 crossings westbound over the old Severn Bridge between 25 December and 31 December in 2018 compared with 44,752 in 2017 - a 34% increase.

Image caption Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns paid the final toll on the M4 bridge in December

A spokesman from Highways England stressed there was a wide variety of factors that could influence traffic levels, particularly over an unusual period such as Christmas.

He said monthly data would provide a more accurate picture of the trend over time.

Over several years, traffic has typically increased on the Severn Crossings by about 4% year-on-year.

A report prepared for the UK Government suggested that by 2022 more than 24 million vehicles every year would use the crossings westbound, compared to 18 million if the tolls has continued.

The tolls were in place from the opening of the first Severn Bridge in 1966.

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