MOTORISTS are now able to travel for free for the first time in 52 years on the two Severn bridges as the tolls are scrapped today.

The abolition comes as thousands of people are expected to make their journeys home for the festive period.

From about 5.30am today, the Prince of Wales bridge will have three free flowing lanes. The Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns MP will be at the toll plaza near Rogiet to witness the first vehicle drive over the bridge toll free.

The three lanes will be narrow lanes with a 50mph speed limit to ensure the safety of drivers.

The M48 bridge will be fully closed westbound on December 17, reopening on Wednesday December 19 with two free flowing lanes.

These will also have a 50mph speed limit.

Further work will be carried out in 2019 to return both routes to a three-lane motorway with the usual 70mph speed limit.

Hannah Milliner, general manager Severn bridges, Highways England, said: “This is a significant piece of work which is far more complex than simply removing toll booths.

“We want to make sure that journeys can be completed safely and free of charge by the end of the year and will then focus on the next stage of work.”

READ MORE: All you need to know about the Severn Bridge toll closures

Other changes taking place include the closure of the M4 Rogiet Tag office. Information for Tag holders has been provided directly to account holders.

Drivers can find more information about these changes from the Severn bridges website.

Charges have been in place since 1966, when the fee to cross the newly-built Severn Bridge stood at two shillings and sixpence - the equivalent of 12.5p in decimal currency today.

They were then introduced on the second crossing - renamed the Prince of Wales Bridge in April this year - when it opened 30 years later in 1996.


(Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns said scrapping the tolls would see regular commuters save about  £1,400 per year)

The current fee for a car crossing from England into South Wales is £5.60, and regular commuters are expected to save about £1,400 a year.

The tolls were reduced on New Year's Day 2018 after the bridges were returned to public ownership, but the Government resisted calls to immediately abolish crossing fees.

The Government said scrapping of the tolls would provide an immediate benefit of over £100 million per year for Wales, and over a billion pounds of economic benefit over the next decade.

READ MORE: Removal of Severn bridge tolls will bring challenges to Chepstow town centre, meeting hears

Businesses will also benefit from strengthened links between communities ranging from west Wales to the south west of England by making it easier for consumers and employees to cross the border.

The final driver to pay to cross over from England to Wales yesterday was Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns.

"The end of the tolls is a major milestone for the economies of south Wales and south west of England, and will remove historic barriers between communities," Mr Cairns said.

"Scrapping the tolls means an end to generations of people paying to simply cross the border and delivering this has been one of my key aims as Welsh Secretary.

"A week before Christmas drivers will no longer have to pay every time they cross the border, meaning more money in their pockets, helping them with the cost of living and leaving them with and more cash to spend in their local areas."

Chris Graying, Secretary of State for Transport, said: "We made a commitment in the manifesto to deliver free crossings over the Severn and that's exactly what we're delivering.

"This move will put £1,400 a year in the pockets of thousands of hard-working motorists and help transform the economy in the south west and South Wales creating new opportunities and helping drive future growth."

Earlier this year, more than 30,000 people signed a petition against the Second Severn Crossing being renamed after the Prince of Wales.

The new title, which has the agreement of the Queen and Prime Minister Theresa May, was to recognise Charles' 70th birthday year and 60 years since he became the Prince of Wales.