Tolls on the Severn Crossings will be abolished in 2018, in a move the Government says will boost the Welsh economy by around £100m annually and save some motorists almost £1,400 per year.
The bridges are used by more than 25 million vehicles each year, but ministers say the tolls on both Severn Crossings have been seen as an “economic and symbolic barrier to Wales’ future prosperity”.
Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns said, “The decision to abolish the Severn tolls next year sends a powerful message to businesses, commuters and tourists alike that the UK Government is committed to strengthening the Welsh economy. 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. I want to ensure that visitors and investors know what Wales has to offer socially, culturally and economically. Most importantly, I want the world to know how accessible we are to business. The decision we have taken today is right for Wales’ future prosperity and I am sure that it will be welcomed by industry and motorists alike.”
When the bridges come under public ownership, they will be run by Highways England. Previously it has been run by Severn River Crossing plc.
Ian Gallagher, Head of Policy for South West and Wales Freight Transport Association welcomed the announcement, “This announcement today is excellent news for the growth of the Welsh and South West Economies, a real shot in the arm for those businesses and commuters who use the bridges on a daily basis,” he said. “Removal of the tolls altogether has been a long-term policy position for the Freight Transport Association, with members on both side of the bridges incurring some of the highest tolls charges in the UK, money better spent on upskilling, recruitment and purchasing greener vehicles.”
The Government had previously suggested cutting tolls rather than removing them completely. A report in January suggested that reducing tolls could cause a 17% increase in congestion, but the effect of making the crossing free is not detailed.