The Freight Transport Association (FTA) is calling on the Government to guarantee its pre-election promise to remove all charges on the Severn Bridges.
The two bridges spanning the Severn estuary on the M4 and M48 motorways in Wales have the highest toll charges on the entire UK road network. This represents a massive burden on road haulage businesses who have seen year-on-year price increases, costing the sector millions of pounds.
FTA says a clear commitment from the Government to scrap any future charges is essential to provide certainty for business and deliver economic benefit to the whole area. Ian Gallagher, FTA Head of Policy for Wales and the South West, said:
“Removal of tolls on the Severn Bridges has been a key FTA priority for many years, so the election commitment by all parties to end the charges was welcome. FTA members are now looking for a firm guarantee from the Government to deliver on this promise to deliver much needed revenue to business at a time when inflationary pressure continues to grow.”
The administration of the two bridges at the Severn Crossing is due to revert to central government control at the end of this year or in early 2018, when toll charging will automatically end. However, a new charging system is currently planned to replace the tolls and FTA says the Government must make an announcement to scrap charges altogether at the first opportunity.
Currently it costs £20 for an HGV to cross into Wales and £13.40 for a van. As Gallagher continues:
“This unnecessarily high cost of doing business in Wales has been recognised as a barrier to inward investment by our members and their customers, and puts Welsh freight operators at a disadvantage when tendering for business in England. At a time when business needs as much encouragement to grow as possible, it is key that central government delivers on its promise, to help the logistics industry to keep Britain trading.”
Evidence produced in a study by consultants ARUP in 2012 shows that scrapping the toll would boost Welsh GDP by £107 million. This figure is more than the amount raised annually by the Severn Bridge toll. Savings for some FTA businesses would amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds annually, which could then be used to expand the business, increasing employment, and training or purchase of greener vehicles.