The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has called on members of the Welsh Affairs Committee to press the Government for clearer information about the future of the Severn crossings, which return to public ownership in 2018.
FTA appeared before the Welsh Affairs Committee in Chepstow alongside FTA member Owens Group to give evidence about the two bridges, which are currently operated by Severn River Crossing. The bridge tolls are amongst the highest in the country and FTA is seeking clarity about their future.
Ian Gallagher, FTA’s head of policy for Wales, said: “The future is uncertain for businesses and commuters who rely on the bridges every day. It is unthinkable that we are so close to the transition date and still do not know what this will mean for users and staff.”
FTA’s appearance follows written evidence already provided to the committee in May, where it called for the tolls to be either scrapped altogether or reduced to a level that covered only maintenance and operating costs. The message was reinforced at yesterday’s hearing.
Gallagher continued: “The net toll revenue received by Severn River Crossing was around £98 million in 2015. Maintenance costs for the bridges are around £15 million so there is genuine scope to reduce the tolls much further than the 50% level announced by the chancellors at the last budget.”
As a frequent user of the bridge, Owens Group called on the committee to press the Department for Transport (DfT) in the strongest terms to come up with a solution that is both representative and fair.
Ian Jarman of Owens Group, who is Vice Chair to FTA’s Welsh Freight Council, said: “With the handover of both of the Severn crossings back into public ownership potentially as early as October 2017, it is important that we as an industry gain cross-party support for this issue which directly affect us.”
He added: “There is an urgent need for free-flow technology to be used to ease congestion around the toll plazas, along with the need for high frequency discounts and the potential of off-peak running time discounts too.”