The Freight Transport Association (FTA) is calling on the government to guarantee its pre-election promise to remove all charges on the Severn Bridges. It says that, with the highest tolls on the entire UK road network, the two motorway crossings into Wales are a massive burden on road haulage businesses who have seen year on year price increases, costing the sector millions of pounds. Head of policy for Wales and the South West, Ian Gallagher, said, “Removal of tolls on the Severn Bridges has been a key FTA priority for many years so the election commitment by all parties to end the charges was welcome. FTA members, including Bishopsgate, are now looking for a firm guarantee from the government to deliver on this promise to deliver much needed revenue to business at a time when inflationary pressure continues to grow”
The administration of the two bridges at the Severn Crossing is due to revert to central government control at the end of this year or in early 2018, when tolls as such will automatically end. However, a new charging system (there is a distinction between tolls and charges says Ian Gallagher) is currently planned to replace the tolls and the FTA says the Government must make an announcement to scrap charges altogether at the first opportunity.
Currently it costs £20 for an HGV to cross into Wales and £13.40 for a van.
Ian Gallagher said that the £1,2bn cost of building the bridges was likely to be repaid by around October whereupon the crossings would revert back to public ownership. However, the government had not revealed in the latest Queens speech what its plans were, or the likely level of future charges, although it was stated in last years budget that they would be halved and that the separate tier for vans and minibuses would be abolished and such vehicles classed as cars. FTA argues that any future charges should be geared to covering only on going maintenance costs.
The Association is also keen to see a free flow system introduced for collecting any future charges, similar to that now used on the Dartford crossings near London. The current system does cause serious congestion at commuter peaks or when there is a sporting event in Cardiff and hauliers must factor that into their travel costs. Ian Gallagher said, “If you consider that an HGV truck costs about £1 a minute to run, if there is a delay of 20 minutes it can outweigh the cost of the truck toll”
We will watch this space with interest as events unfold.