Plans for the handover of the Severn crossings to Government remain unclear according to the Freight Transport Association (FTA) following yesterday’s Severn Bridge Summit at Westminster.
The event, which was co-hosted by FTA and Newport East MP Jessica Morden, saw stakeholders, businesses and bridge users join invited MPs to put questions to Transport Minister Andrew Jones. All were looking for clarity on the Government’s plans for administration of the bridges when it takes over from current operator Severn River Crossing PLC in 2018.
The message from the Transport Minister was “wait for the consultation” but FTA is urging the Government to implement more effective payment methods to reduce congestion – or better still cut or abolish the tolls.
FTA Chief Executive David Wells, who chaired the meeting, said: “The Government must provide some clarity on its plans for the bridges. FTA would welcome a reduction in tolls to maintenance costs only. This summit and the range of views expressed highlight the importance of developing a solution to what are some of the most expensive tolls in the country, administered by outdated payment methods which just add to congestion.
“The excellent turn-out reflects the cross-party interest in this issue – both the Transport Minister and Shadow Transport Minister Lilian Greenwood MP were in attendance.”
The Minister was asked a range of questions from the floor including the suggestion that the tolls should either be scrapped or reduced to a figure which covered only maintenance costs. The Minister agreed the tolls were particularly high and said agreement set out in the Severn Rivers Act had failed to future-proof users from a year-on-year increase.
The two bridges are currently the responsibility of Severn River Crossing PLC and will revert back to public ownership in early 2018, business, and commuters are keen to understand what this transition will mean.