Tuesday, 1 June 2010


The news (Western Mail 1st June 2010) that the private company that operates the Severn Toll Bridges has raised almost £226m over the past three years – yet has spent barely £15m on essential maintenance on the original crossings damaged cables - should not come as much of a surprise to many people. The Severn Crossings Tolls have been a valuable cash cow for many years, aside from being a tax on jobs, a tax on commuters, a tax on growth and tax on business in the south of Wales.

Plaid Cymru's South Wales Central AM Chris Franks obtained the figures under the Freedom of Information Act, which show a significant difference between the large amounts of money raised by Severn River Crossing plc from the toll, and the relatively small amount spent on treating the damage to the cables on the old crossing (M48). 

Since 2006, some £15m has been spent on main cable work on the first Severn Crossing. The Highways Agency suggests that another £5.8m will take place over the next five years. Some £225,733,000 has been collected in bridge toll revenue since 2006. people may well wonder if they are going to get saddled with major work to maintain the bridges after the toll profits have been siphoned off by the concessionary company when the bridges are finally returned to public ownership in 2016.

1 comment:

  1. Reading the Western Mail story (p3) it seems that the situation is even worse. According to the DfT, the PFI agreement commits SRC to:

    "maintaining both bridges to agreed standards consistent with those applied across the motorway network.

    "Separately to this, funding in excess of £14m has already been provided by the Highways Agency to enable the essential maintenance work that is being carried out on the cables on the M48 Severn Bridge."

    In other words, the lion's share of the £15m for cable preservation has been paid not out of tolls, but directly by the Government. Presumably this is because it is not considered to be "normal" maintenance that could be applied across the whole motorway network.

    Like so many PFI contracts, the maintenance "risk" that the consortium is expected to take responsibility for is so narrowly defined that anything out of the ordinary isn't included and therefore has to be paid for out of the public purse. Private profit, public risk.