Nia Griffith MP is demanding to know from UK Government Ministers when we can expect to see substantial reductions in the cost of tolls on the Severn bridges. The bridges will revert to public ownership when the debts for building them have finally been paid off, which is expected to be sometime in 2018, but the UK Government has yet to confirm exactly when, and Government Ministers have also said that there are also other outstanding debts owed to the treasury, which will need to be recouped first.
Speaking up in parliamentary debate initiated by Jessica Morden MP whose constituency of Newport East is home to the Welsh side of the second Severn Crossing, Nia Griffith MP explained:
“It is very unfair that companies like Owens Transport based in Llanelli pay a whopping £500,000 a year in Severn Bridge tolls when they are competing in a cut-throat business with England-based or continental-based companies. They are very disappointed that whilst the Chancellor has announced a reduction for category two vehicles (vans), there is nothing being done for HGVs. The cost of these tolls can be a determining factor in whether businesses decide to invest in Wales or choose to go elsewhere.”
“It is high time that the Government had clear plans on future toll charges on the Severn crossings, and when we can expect reductions. We know that the VAT will come off when the bridges revert to public ownership, but that will only make a small difference, and will make no difference to commercial operators who reclaim VAT. I’d rather see no charges at all, but failing that, I want assurances from Government that the maximum charge will be a maintenance only charge, which we are told would be about £1.50 to £2. It is bad enough having any charge at all, when we do not operate a pay-as-you-go system elsewhere on our road system, but it would be monstrous to see the bridges being used as a cash cow by government – imposing an unfair tax on people in Wales, and deterring industry from locating this side of the bridge. And government ministers should drop this nonsense about other monies still being “owed” to government by the bridges – the treasury has already had substantial amounts of our money in VAT charges. “
“In the meantime, the Government should be insisting the operators invest in better use of modern technology to reduce queueing, and exploring options like off-peak reductions for hauliers.”