A NEWPORT MP has asked what the Chancellor is doing to cut or freeze the cost of using the Severn crossings after Humber Bridge car tolls were slashed in half.
Earlier this month charges for cars on the Humber Bridge were cut from £6 return to £3 – half the price of a journey from England to Wales over the Severn Bridge or Crossing.
Chancellor George Osborne said the reduction in tolls would benefit the economy of Yorkshire and Humber by £250 million.
Jessica Morden, MP for Newport East, says the government has previously stated there was no evidence on the impact of tolls on the Welsh economy.
In a response to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the impact of Severn Bridge tolls, the UK government said there was no quantitative evidence, with no study having been done by previous governments.
Ms Morden said: “But he’s (the Chancellor) conceding just that for Yorkshire and Humber. In Wales, what we want to know is what he is doing to help cut or freeze tolls on the Severn bridges?”
Ms Morden is among several politicians in South East Wales who have called for action on the tolls.
Under the Severn Bridges Act, the bridge operator, Severn River Crossing plc, can raise the cost of the crossings every year by the rate of inflation.
The company runs the crossings under a concession agreement, expected to end in 2017 with the bridges going back into public ownership.
A Department for Transport spokeswoman said the three bridges were built under different regimes, and said tolls could not be reduced without extending the concession.
“In the long run, lower tolls would mean motorists would have to pay more,” she said.
She said: “The Welsh Government is carrying out a study on the economic impact of tolls at the Severn, and we look forward to hearing their report.”
EDITORIAL COMMENT: MP is right to raise concerns
NEWPORT MP Jessica Morden is right to raise the apparent discrepancy between the government’s attitude to toll bridges in England and Wales.
At the beginning of this month the Department for Transport announced it was halving tolls on the Humber Bridge in Hull to benefit the local economy.
Yet the government says there is no evidence of tolls on the Severn bridges having a negative effect on the Welsh economy. The government cannot have it both ways.
The Humber Bridge tolls have been cut to £3 for a return car journey – half the amount car drivers have to pay to get into Wales. The government estimates the move will benefit the local economy by around £250 million.
Quite why this should be the case in Yorkshire but not in Wales is beyond us.
It is our view tolls on the Severn bridges are a disincentive to firms looking to invest in Wales. The government may argue the two cases are different, not least because the Severn bridges are not in public ownership.
But if the experiment with the Humber Bridge proves as beneficial to the local economy as the government claims then the clamour for something similar on the Severn bridges will become deafening.