The Government has announced that toll charges on the Severn crossings will be scrapped at the end of 2018.
Among the 25 million journeys annually across the bridge are a large number of coach tolls at £20. It is estimated the change will bring £100 million in to the Welsh economy.
Opened in 1966 at a cost of £8 million, the crossing operators have increased tolls regularly, leading to accusations of profiteering. By 1992, the share capital of the plc which owns it was shared between British and French developers (35% each) Bank of America and Barclays Capital. Under the original agreement, ownership will pass back to the UK Government this year, paving the way to free crossings.
Operator Cavendish Coaches, based in South Wales, said the removal of the toll would be a big cost saving, which would be passed on to passengers: “We calculate that this will save us around £6,500 a year,” said a spokesman for Cavendish, which runs extensive private hire and schools work.
Ian Gallagher, FTA Head of Policy for Wales and the South West, said: “The announcement today heralds the death knell of what are the most expensive tolls in the UK, representing a massive disincentive for inward investment and economic growth across the region, and is warmly welcomed by the Freight Transport Association and its members.”
CPT’s Director of Government Relations, Wales, John Pockett, said: “CPT Cymru has been involved in discussions with a number of key stakeholders on this project over the past couple of years.
“While this is welcome news for our coach operator members, CPT is keen to make sure that the complete removal of toll charges doesn’t lead to any unintended consequences – such as increased congestion along the M4 corridor at Newport – as a direct result.”