Drivers will see an end to tolls on the Severn Crossings at the end of 2018, the government has announced.
The Severn Crossings, which are used by more than 25 million vehicles each year, save significant travel time and distance for drivers using the M4 motorway.
The two bridges spanning the Severn estuary on the M4 and M48 motorways in Wales have seen year-on-year price increases, costing the freight sector millions of pounds. It currently costs £20 for an HGV to cross into Wales and £13.40 for a van.
The administration of the two bridges will revert to central government control at the end of this year or in early 2018, and will be run by Highways England. Previously it has been run by Severn River Crossing plc.
The announcement has been hailed as a victory for the Freight Transport Association, which has spent 10 years lobbying for charges to be removed to boost business in Wales and the South West.
Ian Gallagher, FTA Head of Policy for Wales and the South West, said: “We have fought long and hard on behalf of FTA members to get these charges removed. They represent a huge financial burden for logistics companies in the area – money that would be better spent on upskilling, recruitment and purchasing greener vehicles.”
Mr Gallagher continued: “The announcement today heralds the death knoll 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.
“Goods vehicle operators will be applauding this decision, a decision which will allow them to reinvest more than £43 million annually collected at the booths – money which can now be reinvested in job creation and improving fleets.”
The government said abolishing the tolls would boost the economy of South Wales by around £100 million a year.
Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns said: “The decision to abolish the Severn tolls next year sends a powerful message to businesses, commuters and tourists alike that the UK Government is committed to strengthening the Welsh economy.
“By ending tolls for the 25 million annual journeys between two nations we will strengthen the links between communities and help to transform the joint economic prospects of South Wales and the South West of England.”
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Tens of millions of motorists a year will benefit from the end of tolls on the Severn bridges, saving them money and cutting journey times.
“Abolishing the crossing fee will also drive economic growth for businesses in Wales and the South West and further strengthen the bond between our two great countries.”
The Severn Bridge was built in 1966 and a second crossing was completed 30 years later. The first Severn Bridge was opened in September 1966, providing a direct link from the M4 motorway into Wales, with a toll in place for use of the bridge to pay for the cost of construction. It continually operated above capacity and in 1986 the then Government stated that a second bridge would be constructed.
In 1988 it was announced that tenders would be invited from private consortia to fund, build and operate the second bridge and take over the operation of the first bridge. In 1990 the concession was awarded to Severn River Crossing plc. Construction work started in April 1992 and the second bridge was opened in June 1996.
Originally posted at freight-online.co.uk