News that tolls on the Severn bridges will be halved has been described as a step in the right direction by the Freight Transport Association.
George Osborne announced as part of his Budget statement yesterday that the Government will halve tolls on the Severn River Crossings, once the Crossings are in public ownership, subject to public consultation.
Alongside this, it will also review the costs and benefits for developing a free-flow barrier-free smart-tolling system using number-plate recognition cameras.
The Severn Bridge tolls are the most expensive in the UK, costing £6.60 for a car, £13.20 for a van and £19.80 for a coach or lorry.
Responding to the Chancellor’s announcement, Ian Gallagher, FTA Head of Policy for the South West and Wales, said,“As always the devil is in the detail – the Chancellor has said that the tolls will be reduced when the bridges are in public ownership but this is subject to public consultation. If the Government must consult, this should be carried out prior to handover so that a reduction in charges is in place from day one.
“FTA would urge the Government to look at starting the process of free-flow technology prior to the handover in 2018.”
The Association has previously stated that the tolls are an unfair burden on both businesses and commuters and called for them to be reduced as soon as possible.
Mr Gallagher added: “Reducing the tolls will be a welcome shot in the arm for businesses and commuters who use the bridges daily, allowing businesses to invest in the things that matter such as new vehicles and staff recruitment.”
It is planned that the bridges, which are administered by Severn River Crossing plc, will revert back to public ownership in 2018. It is predicted that there is likely to be an outstanding debt of approximately £50 million on the bridges at this time. It is still not clear if Wales will become responsible for the two bridges of if they will remain in UK Government control.
Budget bullet points
“Motorists will be relieved that the Chancellor has not used low fuel prices as an opportunity to raise duty on petrol and diesel to help reduce the deficit,” said RAC chief engineer David Bizley.
“But, with the Government’s own evidence showing that lower fuel prices are good for the economy, we are disappointed Mr Osborne didn’t make a longer-term commitment to freeze duty beyond next year’s Budget.”
AA president Edmund King said they were relieved by a 0.5% rise in the Insurance Premium Tax, just a sixth of what was expected.
But he said there still remained a strong case for improved road links east to west across the UK to cut jams.
Whilst the Chancellor’s announcement to freeze fuel in today’s Budget has been welcomed by the FTA it has also expressed disappointment that he did not take the opportunity to reduce fuel duty – stating that he could have done better.
The Freight Transport Association has said that George Osborne has missed the opportunity to boost economy by introducing a reduction in fuel duty by 3 pence per litre.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “The 2016 Budget contained some positive measures and we were pleased to see the Chancellor recognise SMMT’s call for greater support for energy efficient technologies, through both the extension of Climate Change Agreements and a forthcoming consultation on the future Company Car Tax treatment of ultra low emission vehicles.
“However, we were disappointed that the Chancellor has not done more on business rate reform as the removal of plant and machinery from business rates valuation would have encouraged investment in innovative manufacturing technologies, improving still further UK automotive industry productivity and safeguarding our competitiveness.”