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Government signals an end to Severn Crossing charges

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Tolls on the Severn Crossings linking England and South Wales are to be abolished for all vehicle classes from the end of next year, the Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns has announced.

Currently westbound traffic is charged to cross the Severn Bridge and Second Severn Crossing into Wales where toll booth plazas are in place alongside an automatic vehicle identification system known as Severn TAG. CCTV and automatic number plate recognition technology is also used on the bridges for the purpose of crime prevention and tolling data.

The structures are traversed by more than 25 million vehicles every year, with cars paying £6.70 per crossing and heavy goods vehicles charged £20. Government’s move to scrap the tolls is expected to allow free flow crossings and will come after the bridges return to public ownership next year, at which point they are to be operated by Highways England.

“By ending tolls for the 25 million annual journeys between two nations we will strengthen the links between communities and help to transform the joint economic prospects of South Wales and the South West of England,” said Alun Cairns.

Government estimates that the move will boost the economy of South Wales by around £100M a year while saving commuters, businesses, tourists and freight hauliers money. People who use the crossings every day stand to save a minimum of £115 a month.

However some fear that removing the charges may lead to increased traffic levels. South Wales Chamber of Commerce president Liz Maher said that the tolls have been an “artificial barrier” to trade from South Wales for too long. But she noted that “scrapping the tolls will bring more traffic along the M4, especially around Newport”, highlighting the need for the proposed M4 Relief Road to be built.

Evidence from the Government – which consulted on reducing the toll prices earlier in the year – points towards similar consequences. Its analysis suggests that if the charges were to just be halved it would cause traffic to increase by around 17%.

Meanwhile the RAC’s roads policy spokesman Nicholas Lyes said: “Motorists who use the Severn Crossing will welcome the move to abolish tolls. Where viable and where there are real tangible economic benefits for doing so, we would encourage the Government to look at reducing or abolishing other crossing tolls across the country to help motorists who are feeling the squeeze of rising costs presently.”

Photo: By Jongleur100 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons