Thursday, 21 March 2013


The Conservatives in Wales have finally joined calls for the Welsh government to be handed control over the Severn bridges, only to find that a Conservative minister in the Con Dem Coalition government is opposing any such idea. The Conservatives in the Senedd have proposed cutting the bridge tolls and using the proceeds to spend on infrastructure. So we have elected representatives from the same party in opposition to each other over an issue of importance to the Welsh people and our economy. Nothing new here, Labour in Wales was often at loggerheads with Labour in Westminster, putting party (and self) interest before the interests of Wales.

The Second Severn Bridge
Now when it comes to transferring the Severn Bridges (and their income) to Wales, this is also not a new idea. Back in October 2010 Professor Peter Midmore produced an independent economic study of the Severn Bridge tolls which recommended that the revenues should stay in Wales, once the crossings revert to public hands. The Welsh Affairs Select Committee back in December 2010 recommended that the bridge tolls be cut once the concession ends.

At the moment both of the Severn Bridges are run by a private company (Severn Crossings PLC) and the Welsh government (in a report published in November 2012) wants to take control of the Severn Bridges when they return to public ownership. The bridge concession when it ends in 2018 will have brought in some £996 million pounds (based on 1989 prices). At the moment it costs £6.20 to take a car over the M4 and M48 bridges from England to Wales, with driving into England being free. Vans and minibuses cost £12.40 and for Lorries and coaches £18.60. Businesses and commuters currently fork out around £80 million pounds a year to cross the bridges.

Yet, Westminster, no doubt with an eye on useful income stream has said that the Severn Bridges when the concession finally comes to an end won’t be transferred to Wales and also that the tolls may not get cut either. Interestingly enough, the Humber Bridge continues to receive a subsidy, but, no such luck for the Severn Bridges and their hard pressed commuters. Perhaps the party formerly known as New Labour and the current Con Dem Government in Westminster hoped that here in Wales – out of sight and out of mind (at least from a Westminster perspective) - we would not notice the ongoing subsidy.

Plaid has long called for control, or shared control, over the bridge to be devolved to the Welsh government and for negotiations to start immediately to ensure that the transfer is in place by 2018. The Party, committed to reducing the tolls on the Severn Bridges to under £2 per car, recognises that the high cost of the tolls impacts on commuters and businesses (especially freight and logistics) and on people visiting Wales. The bridges are of such importance that it is only fair that control, or at least shared control, over them is in the hands of the Welsh people.

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