SEVERN BRIDGE TOLL CUTS “DON’T GO FAR ENOUGH”

MONMOUTH MP David Davies has called for a “much more generous” offer from the UK Government over its plans for the future of the Severn Bridge tolls.

Chancellor George Osborne has already confirmed VAT on the charges will be scrapped when the two crossings return to public ownership.

It would see drivers paying £5.40 for cars and vans from 2018.

But Mr Davies feels the move does not go far enough and the Government “could do better”.

Bridge

Pushing for radical reductions in the tolls during a Westminster Hall debate, he said:

“The Government should realise that members of all parties from constituencies throughout south Wales do not consider the existing situation to be fair.

“Although we welcome the fact that the Government will bring the bridges back into public ownership and remove the VAT, I speak for many when I say that is simply not enough.

“We are looking for more than has so far been on offer.”

Mr Davies described the tolls as a “big dent in people’s wage packets” and argued a toll of about one third of the existing level would be sufficient to cover ongoing maintenance costs for both structures.

“The Government wants to carry on tolling in order to recoup £88 million which was spent on unexpected repairs to the old crossing,” he said.

“However, I believe it has received around £140 million above what was expected in taxes from VAT and the industrial buildings allowance.

“I have put the figures on record to the Minister and if I am wrong, he is welcome to correct me. But if I am right, then the Government has received far more than it has lost and the tolls should come down faster.”

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said during the debate he was looking at whether lessons could be learned from other parts of the UK.

Changes to the payment system on the Severn Bridge are being considered, he announced, which could spell the end of having to stop at toll booths.

The Dartford Crossing scheme between Kent and Essex was highlighted as a good example. Barriers were removed and replaced with number plate recognition technology, allowing drivers to pay by phone or text message.

Mr Jones also ruled out giving the Welsh Government control of the bridges, adding: “I have absolutely no plan whatsoever to change ownership but I do have every intention to work together on future operation of the crossings.”

A full transcript of Tuesday’s debate (21 July) is available here:http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm20151

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