I welcome the planned reductions in the Severn bridge tolls announced in the budget. The Severn bridge tolls are a current significant financial burden for many businesses, commuters and motorists and will remain so after 2018. The tolls can impact on where people choose to locate and do business, Plaid Cymru has repeatedly said that the ultimate goal should be to scrap the Severn bridge tolls altogether.
In government, Plaid would work to achieve this aim, beginning with a reduction to a fee that would cover maintenance costs only. The Party of Wales is committed to removing all obstacles, which are holding back the Welsh economy. The Severn bridges are of strategic importance and it is vital that they operate in a manner, which helps rather than hinders Wales's economic development.
Westminster still needs not just to come clean on the future of the Severn Bridge tolls, which are a tax on commuters, business and jobs. I have long stated that the National Assembly should have control of the Severn Bridges, it should also be directly involved in any discussions about the future of the Severn Bridge tolls as well, as the record continues to shows that successive Westminster governments remain largely indifferent to Welsh interests.
I remain seriously concerned that the Department for Transport may find even the reduced tolls far too useful as a source of income to simply to either eliminate or to hand over to the control of the National Assembly in Cardiff. Based of the fact that relatively recent Labour Governments in Westminster with significant majorities and various shades of Conservative `(and Liberal Democrat) Governments between 1997 and 2015 did practically nothing to relieve the burden of the bridge tolls.
One thing remains clear, the fact that successive Westminster governments have failed to act in a timely manner when Wales or Welsh interests have been raised in the past. The future reduction in tolls is nice but it is frankly not good enough. At present the long-term future of the tolls still remains unclear – save for the fact that as far as we know Westminster has no plan to remove them.