The news that the Severn Bridge tolls are unlikely to drop once the vital crossings come into public ownership does not surprise me very much. The UK transport minister Stephen Hammond stated that the government has substantial debts on the bridges that need to be repaid. Both the Severn Bridges are run by a private company, the concession agreement is due to run it course in 2018, at which point the bridges will return to government ownership. It had been suggested that once that concession agreement ran out, the bridge tolls might have dropped to around £1.50.
Sadly this appears not to be the case, the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee, was told that there would be no drop bridge tolls when the concession ends. Even though the bridges would come back into public ownership there were apparently "substantial government debts that needs to be repaid" from building and maintaining the river crossings amounting to around several hundred million. It is enough to make you wonder after the best part of twenty five years of a private company fleecing the people of south Wales and ramping up fat profits at our expense why the bridges were ever privatised in the first place?
Back in June 2010 a Plaid Freedom of Information request revealed the significant difference between the large amounts of money raised by Severn River Crossing plc from the toll, and the relatively small amount being spent on treating the damage to the cables on the old crossing. The FOI request revealed that (since 2006) some £15 million has been spent on main cable work on the first Severn Crossing (the M48 bridge).
The Highways Agency (back in 2011) revealed that another £5.8 million's worth of maintenance will take place over the next five years. This was despite the fact that some £225,733,000 has been collected in bridge toll revenue since 2006. Back in October 2011 I speculated on whether we were going to get saddled with major work to maintain the bridges while the toll profits were being siphoned off by the concession holding company after the bridges are finally returned to public ownership (then in 2014 or 2016) now 2018. Depressingly the answer is Yes...