Welsh Tories want control of Severn crossings for Wales
THE official Assembly opposition will come out today in favour of bringing the Severn crossings into Welsh hands.
Welsh Conservatives say devolving the Severn crossings would give Wales the levers to help hard-pressed motorists.
The party wants to consult on how the bridges would be tolled – looking at three options varying between a flat-rate toll to keeping the structure as it is.
It indicates a growing consensus in the Assembly for the idea – Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones has called for the bridges to be devolved while Plaid also wants control handed to Cardiff.
The Assembly Conservatives would like to see the bridges devolved in 2018 when an agreement for Severn Crossing PLC to run them should end.
However, the policy has come at risk of causing a row within the party. David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth, says he knew nothing about it and said there had been no consultation.
Mr Davies, who has studied the bridges at the Welsh Affairs Committee, said: “I don’t think it will get anywhere. Its not government policy and this is a matter that will be decided by Westminister.”
He previously called Mr Jones’ move “fantasy politics”.
The UK government plans to keep the tolls in public ownership to pay off a £112 million debt.
Shadowminister for transport Byron Davies will launch the policy at Newport haulage firm Owens Logistics today.
He said: “Devolution of the bridges – and future use of the tolls – has the real potential to help hard-pressed motorists, provide significant investment in Welsh infrastructure..”
Monmouth AM Nick Ramsay said: “Devolving the crossings has huge potential for all of us and continued discussion of the toll structure is now vital.”
The Tories plan to hold forums to collect views on whether to retain the current toll structure and put all cash into Welsh infrastructure; having a lower toll and using some cash for maintenance and some for infrastructure, or a flat-rate toll to just cover maintenance.
A UK Government Department for Transport spokesman said the debt that remains outstanding at the end of the private concession must be recovered.
He said: “We are not proposing any changes and have not taken any decisions on the future of the crossing.”