Wales politics

George Osborne offers talks on Severn crossing tolls

Severn Bridge
Image caption Tolls on the Severn bridges are due to rise to £6 for cars from 1 January

Business leaders in Wales hope Severn Bridge tolls could be cut after Chancellor George Osborne promised to look at the cost.

After halving Humber Bridge fees in his Autumn Statement, he says there may be a deal on the Severn crossings and is keen to talk to the Welsh government.

But the Welsh government said the lack of firm action was "extremely disappointing".

The Institute of Directors in Wales called for a change in the near future.

Tolls for cars on the Severn bridges are due to rise to £6 from 1 January.

Vans and small buses will have to pay £12.10 - a 60p increase - while heavy goods vehicles and coaches will pay £18.10, an increase of 90p.

Tolls on the Humber Bridge between East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire are paid in each direction and are currently set at £3 for cars and up to £20.30 for an articulated lorry.

Mr Osborne announced that he was writing down the outstanding debt on the Humber crossing by £150m which would allow tolls to be cut in half.

The decision was included in the Treasury's National Infrastructure Plan which also included a pledge to work with the Welsh government to improve the M4 in south east Wales.

Mr Osborne said the UK government was "holding open the opportunity of a discussion" on the Severn crossing tolls.

But First Minister Carwyn Jones pointed out that the Treasury had failed to match the cuts given to the Humber Bridge Board. His disappointment was echoed by Finance Minister Jane Hutt.

A Welsh government spokesperson stressed it was for UK ministers to take action.

"The Severn crossings are owned by the UK government. The Welsh government does not set the tolls, nor do we benefit from the toll income," said the spokesperson.

Capital funding

"While the UK government has announced plans to fund the halving of the tolls on the Humber Bridge, no such plans have been announced for the Severn crossings. This is extremely disappointing.

"We welcome the chancellor's assertion that there could be a possible deal on Severn Bridges tolls and look forward to taking forward that discussion."

Robert Lloyd Griffiths, of the Institute of Directors in Wales, said: "It was noticeable that [the chancellor] plans to write down £150m of debt on the Humber Bridge, which will halve the tolls for cars.

"I sincerely hope that similar measures are considered for the Severn Bridge in the near future," he added..

Wales will receive an extra £216m in capital funding following the chancellor's statement. Cardiff will also become one of ten "super-connected" cities which the UK government hopes will benefit from faster broadband and mobile internet connections.

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said the extra capital funds should be used to "enhance growth opportunities".

But the Welsh government said that by 2014-15 its capital budget would be half what it was in 2009-10 because of UK government cuts.

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