THE abolition of the tolls charged to drivers using the two Severn crossings at the end of next year has received a rapturous welcome but is it all good news?

Haydn Thomas, director of Newport-based Hutchings & Thomas Chartered Surveyors, says there are pros and also the cons for the removal of tolls on the River Severn

“One the one hand it’s good news for business both in Wales and generally for industries who are active in Wales; transport companies will definitely benefit with immediate savings which will possibly make South Wales companies more competitive. I have been speaking with a local transport company; they feel they could immediately save circa £100,000 a year from the removal of the River Severn tolls.

“South Wales will become more attractive to companies especially in road haulage and distribution sectors. Congestion at the toll plaza will be removed making the journey to South Wales less of a burden. There will also be economic benefits in the leisure and tourist sector and increases in economic activity will improve the Welsh economy generally potentially acting as a catalyst for development across the commercial sector

“However on the other hand the loss of the toll revenue there is the question of where the funding will be generated for the repair and upkeep of both bridges. It is currently assumed that the repair and maintenance of both bridges and the carriageways will be taken over by the national highways agencies.

“And will the flow of traffic be improved to the degree that congestion at the tunnels is increased, so the problem of traffic issues are increased at junction 25a and 26 of the motorway

“Does the issue of the congestion at the tunnels then add fuel to the fire for the agreement for the proposed M4 relief road? If additional demand is created for land and buildings then supply would have to be increased to meet that demand. Currently there is a lack of supply of commercial properties especially those properties which are required by the type of operator which will benefit greatly from the removal of the tolls.

“Perhaps people would people prefer a nominal toll to remain to assist with the funding of the repairs and maintenance to both bridges.”

Meanwhile, Johnsey Estates chief executive officer James Crawford is widely in favour but has a few reservations over the possible impact of the tolls payment reversal.

James, who is based at Mamhilad Park Estates, near Pontypool, which is owned by Johnsey Estates, said: "The removal of the tolls on the River Severn will be a major boost for south east Wales, perhaps almost as great as when both the bridges were opened. This should impact positively upon south east Wales as a region.

“The move should help the property market as removing the charge into Wales will impact upon property values. Bristol has become very expensive so it is hoped that the region will be viewed even more favourably as a place to live with a great quality of life.

“The positive impact has already been felt in Chepstow recently, on the back of the likelihood of this decision, so that the wider area (hopefully beyond purely Monmouthshire) should see a positive impact.

“If the property market receives a boost off greater demand, the wider local economy is likely to be boosted too and will also benefit. This should be a significant economic regenerator.

“But we can’t stop here if the impact is to be felt throughout South Wales. It makes the need for the M4 relief road even greater.

“The only negative I can see is to ensure that there isn’t greater leakage for shopping to Bristol, the city centre and Cribbs Causeway. Newport, as an example, has to keep up the pace of change to stop and reverse any potential leakage.”