PRICES increased on New Year's Day this year for the Severn Crossing but questions still surround the long term plan for the bridges when they return to public ownership in 2018.

The price on January 1 increased by 10 pence for category one vehicles which includes cars and motor caravans making it £6.60 to cross into Wales; category two small goods vehicles and small buses is now £13.20 and category three heavy goods vehicles and buses has risen by 20 pence to £19.80.

The cost of using the crossing has steadily increased since the second Severn crossing opened in 1996. In the past 20 years the price for cars has increased by nearly 74 per cent from the original price of £3.80.

The increases are stipulated in the Severn Bridges Act 1992 and adjusted by the Retail Price Index published in September.

The Severn crossings are currently managed by a private concessionaire. The concession will end when a revenue target collected from tolls is reached which is expected to be in 2018.

The government have said that when the bridges return to public ownership in 2018 tolls will not be subject to VAT. It is estimated commuters in cars on average spend more than £1,500 a year on the bridge.

It is estimated that in excess of 25 million vehicles use both bridges each year.

David Davies Conservative MP for Monmouth said the VAT reductions of 20 per cent is a start but he would like the government to be more forthcoming in what they intend to do in 2018.

He said he recently obtained figures showing Severn River Crossing Plc collected a net revenue of £91.4 million in 2014, of which £13.6 million was operational expenditure including maintenance and £17 million was paid in VAT.

He said at present, the difference is being used to pay construction costs but come 2018 the final payment will have been made.

He said: "On the basis of naked figures, I would say it could be reduced to a £1 a car at a time which would cover the cost of maintenance.

"But as a realist, I know that isn't going to happen. A significant reduction – that would be a start."

He added: "I worked in haulage myself for a number of years before becoming an MP and I know first-hand how expensive it is for businesses.

"I feel most sorry for commuters going to Bristol every day."

He said the government has indicated its intention to recompense the sum of around £88 million which they have incurred in extra charges for maintenance of one of the bridges.

But Mr Davies said he would argue the government has already received extra income of around £130 million as a result of changes to the industrial building tax and from VAT as a result of an EU ruling.

He said under his chairmanship, the Welsh Affairs Committee will most probably hold another parliamentary inquiry into the issue shortly.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats group has called for the tolls to be scrapped altogether once the two bridges pass back into public ownership.

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams said it is a 'disgrace' people are forced to pay £6.60 every time they enter Wales.

She said: “Scrapping the tolls would help rebalance the economy and drive growth in a part of the country that really needs it.

“By scrapping them, the Liberal Democrats would boost the South Wales economy by around £107 million a year.”

The Welsh Government has also called for the tolls to be devolved to them as Carwyn Jones, the first minister, said last month that money from the tolls should be re-invested back into Wales.

Gavin Eley, transport manager of RT Keedwell owned by Ken Jones Transport, based in Newport said the company currently spend on average £5,000 a month paying to cross the Severn Bridge. He said five to six lorries a day leave from Newport to cross the bridge on average.

He said: "The increase in prices is not good but there's not much we can do about it – we have to use the bridge.”

He said: "I hope they do lower prices when it goes to public ownership. I think there should be a discount in terms of how many times you use the bridge.

"But that sort of thing hasn't been put forward – a discount would be nice for local businesses.

"I doubt they will ever scrap the toll prices completely as it’s such a good money maker."

Gayle Spillane, from Caldicot, said: "It stops you getting work over the other side. It’s far too much if you're a local and has stopped me taking work in Bristol in the past."

Ross Howen, a healthy and safety advisor, from Caldicot, said: "I travel over the bridge eight or nine times a month for work.

"Personally, I think the tolls are too high and should be a reduced rate for local users within a certain radius of the bridge."

Mr Howen says he can sometimes use three tolls in one day – the Severn Bridge being the most expensive.

The M6 toll has five price categories – for a car travelling between 6am and 11pm on a weekday it is £5.50 but there is a discount for nigh time which is £3.80

There is also a different rate for weekends of £4.80 for cars between 6am and 11pm.

The highest toll for a HGV is £11 on a weekday.

The Dartford Crossing offers a local resident discount where they pay £10 a year for 50 crossings and 20p per extra crossing, or £20 a year for unlimited crossings.

The cost of a single journey for a car is £2.50 and for multiple-axle goods vehicles it is £6.

Karl Daymond's group the Singing Club of Chepstow, Usk and Forest of Dean re-enacted the Rebecca Riots by holding a singing protest on the M48 bridge in 2014.

He said: "I think that the prices going up again is detrimental to businesses in the local area of Chepstow, Forest of Dean and also in Bristol.

"It is a shame that a lot of the money isn't going into the British economy.

"I just hope the prices will go down substantially when the toll passes to the government."

He added: "A number of our members from the singing club commute to Bristol.

"A lady from the club, Emma, cycles from Chepstow to Aust where she leaves her car and then drives to Bristol to work every day.

“It's not good for the economy on both sides. The Mall for instance, I think they would get more custom from South Wales if the tolls weren't so expensive."