Wednesday, 22 December 2010


I welcome the Westminster Welsh Affairs Committee recommendation that the Severn Bridge Tolls should be slashed on the Severn Crossings to as little as £1.50, once they revert to public ownership. This proposed reduction to little less than a fifth of current tolls has been suggested by the Welsh Affairs Committee from 2017 and it wants the toll cut "at the earliest opportunity".

The Committee and many other organisation and people see the tolls, which are due to rise for cars on the M4 and M48 to £5.70 as of 1st January 2011 as a barrier to business, a tax on jobs and tax on commuters. The old Severn Bridge was opened in 1966, with the £300m second Severn crossing being opened some 30 years later. The MPs noted that the bridges cost some £15m a year to run and maintain but raise some £72m in revenue.

Back in October 2010 Professor Peter Midmore's independent economic study of the Severn Bridge tolls recommended that the revenues should stay in Wales, once the crossings revert to public hands. The Professor's study found that Welsh businesses were unfairly penalised by the tolls and concluded that the money should be shared with the Assembly Government and used to improve Wales’ roads and public transport. Under the current stitch up (sorry set-up), once the cost of the Second Severn Crossing is paid off (by 2014 or 2016) the revenue stream will revert straight to Treasury coffers in Westminster.

The study of 122 businesses commissioned by the Federation of Small Businesses also found that the tolls had a negative impact on 30% of firms in South Wales, compared with 18% in the Greater Bristol area. While noting that the economic impact was not substantial for most, the study found that transport, construction and tourism-related companies reliant on regular crossings suffered increased costs and reduced competitiveness.

As of January 1st 2011, the tolls on Severn Bridges, will rise:

The toll for Cars and vehicles with up to nine seats will rise from £5.50 to £5.70

The toll for Minibuses up to 17 seats and goods vehicles up to 3,500kg will rise from £10.90 to £11.50

And the tolls for Buses and coaches with 18 seats or more and lorries above 3,500kg will rise from £16.40 to £17.20


  • Introduction of an "essential" contemporary payment method
  • Reduce the cost of the toll when the government takes ownership 
  • Implement "free-flow technology" as soon as possible
  • Concessions for those who depend on the crossings for their livelihood could be introduced
  • UK government should take responsibility for the "failure" of civil servants 20 years ago to future-proof legislation which determines toll fees
  • Government learns from the "inflexibility" of the Severn Bridges Act 1992 when agreeing future contracts
  • Government "must develop urgently" a future strategy for the crossings
Source: The Severn Crossings Toll - Commons Welsh Affairs committee


Whilst the day when the Severn Bridges come back into public ownership cannot come quick enough along with the recommendation that the tolls be cut, there are a few other things that would be worth examining. The Welsh Affairs Committee chair David Davies, MP for Monmouth, noted that due to "the inflexible provisions of the 1992 Severn Crossings Act, neither the government nor Severn Crossings Plc is able to freeze or reduce the toll without incurring significant costs." It might well be worth inquiring how come the Act was so badly written, and whether or not anyone directly benefited financially by ending up with a seat on the board or with contributions to Party funds? Just a thought?

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