Wales politics

Severn bridges 'will not be run to generate profits'

Andrew Jones
Image caption Andrew Jones says the bridges will not be used as a "cash system".

The Severn crossings will not be run to generate profit once they pass into public ownership, a UK government minister has said.

Andrew Jones said the arrangement for a private firm to run the bridges may end in October 2017 - sooner than expected.

The crossings would then be taken over by the government, but Mr Jones said they would not be used as a "cash system" to fund schemes elsewhere.

"There's not a profit making exercise here," the transport minister said.

Mr Jones was speaking the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee, which is holding an inquiry into the Severn crossings.

He said: "I'm looking to make sure we have a functioning, well maintained, critical pair of crossings which are fit for the future to fulfil their economic purpose, that are operated in a way which enables the maximum free flow of vehicles, with the least inconvenience.

"They are not a cash system... to fund a scheme in Kent or a scheme somewhere else. That's not right at all."

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Committee chairman David Davies said: "So once all the debts have been paid off, this is a bridge that will continue to charge a toll, but a toll that will cover maintenance costs and not a toll that will make a profit for the government?"

Mr Jones said that was correct.

Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville-Roberts asked if there were any moves to transfer ownership of the crossings to the Welsh Government.

The minister said the bridges, currently owned by Severn River Crossing (SRC) PLC, served England and Wales but were "primarily located" in England.

He said there was no intention to go down the route of transferring ownership to Wales.

Mr Jones also said the traffic on the Severn crossings meant the bridges may be handed back into public ownership sooner than expected.

The private concession was due to end on February 2018, but might now be as soon as October 2017.

Mr Jones said: "The sooner we have this nailed down the better it will be."

There has been speculation the bridges may return to public ownership earlier than expected.

Mr Davies, MP for Monmouth, said: "Changes to corporation tax and an increase in traffic due to low fuel prices mean that the sum promised to SRC will inevitably be paid months earlier than expected.

"I believe it could happen as soon as October or November 2017, so we have less than two years to put a proper plan in place."

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