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Scrap the Severn Bridge Tolls!

August 25, 2014

I had a few hours free yesterday afternoon so visited Berkeley Castle. It’s just one of the many places I could have visited that are within about half hours drive of my home in Bristol. I could have gone to Tyntesfield or Clevedon Court. All would be free to visit as I am a member of all the major heritage groups.  Chepstow Castle, Tintern Abbey or Tredegar House would also have been free…..except for the fact that they are in South Wales, so I would have to have paid £6.40 just to cross the river Severn.

I wonder how often Bristolians dismiss a short trip to Wales, just because of the toll? Or for that matter, how many people from Newport and Monmouthshire who decide not to come to SS Great Britain or Bristol Zoo for an afternoon.  The tolls are a major barrier to cross border tourism.

The tolls are also a barrier to the development of the general Seversnside economy. The last “proper job” I had before being elected Bristol West MP in 2005 was the Tax Accountant for the RAC, based at the Aztec West business park. Hundreds of people who work at the RAC or Orange (where I’ve also worked) commute over from South Wales. Similarly, hundreds of people from Bristol commute to Cardiff to work in the film and televesion industries based there. The £6.40 a day toll represents a tax on jobs of over £1,500 a year.

For small businesses it is even worse. The toll for a small van is £12.80.  So even if a business limited its calls and deliveries to just one per day then the toll would take about £4,500 out of profit, just for delivering to Chepstow as opposed to Bath.

The two bridges are owned currently by a French company, under a concession granted  by the Major government for the building of the second crossing, twenty years ago. They will collect all tolls until the second bridge is paid for, expected to be from about 2017. At that point the bridges return to state ownership. So the next UK government (the 1966 suspension bridge is wholly in Gloucestershire) will get to decide future toll levels.  The Liberal Democrats believe that the fairest decision would be to scrap the tolls altogether. Scrapping the tolls would not cost much, as the only future costs will be maintenance. The cost of actually collecting the tolls would also be saved.

Scrapping the Severn Bridge tolls will be in the 2015 Liberal Democrat manifesto and will therefore be included in the negotiations for the next coalition government. The campaign was launched last week by the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams AM, the Cardiff Central MP Jenny Willott and myself.

You can register your  support at


4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 25, 2014 12:19 pm

    I think there’s a principled case to be made for reform of road schemes including toll roads across the UK, and I like the position the LibDems have had historically: that of reducing fuel duty by introducing motorway congestion charging.

    We have, for example the perverse example of the M6 Toll which creates a road to relieve the M6 in north Birmingham of through traffic – which would otherwise have been part of the congestion – but only charges those who are passing through.

    All M6 users benefit from the “M6 Toll”, but not all are charged, and there is no variation between peak and off-peak usage. The M6 Toll is notably absent of HGVs who still have a financial incentive to be part of the problem.

    So. If the LD manifesto is going to advocate a locally popular position, please let’s not have it as opportunist and unsustainable, but instead make it part of a principled approach to transport finance.

    Congestion charging shouldn’t necessarily finance roads. It should finance choice and convenience. As a localised example (and perhaps a case for greater autonomy for northern England), we could, for example finance a high-speed trans-Pennine rail link from congestion charging on the M62.

  2. August 25, 2014 12:51 pm

    I’m certainly in favour of scrapping fuel duty and replacing it with road user pricing. See my chapter in The Green Book, published last year
    I would introduce a charge per KM, with variations for location, time of day and CO2 emmissions of engine.

  3. May 20, 2015 9:39 am

    May I congratulate you on losing your utterly discriminatory seat in the 2015 elections Stephen. It is people like you, that cannot accept anothers preferences, that have dragged this country down to the swamp fever mentality we now have in abundance. I will ask you two questions, both of which you can contemplate through your retirement:
    a… have you yet found any single person that died as a direct result of SHS ?
    b)…have cancer rates decreased since the implementation of the smoking ban ?
    There is no need to ask you any further questions as I know you cannot answer either of the above truthfully. Thankfully you are an MP no longer and the LibDems finished where they should have finished, especially after Cleggs disgraceful interview 2 days into his glorified position where he spoke with forked tongue-as usual! –>
    Long live freedom of choice and long may you reflect on why you are no longer an MP.

  4. January 11, 2016 6:44 am

    Excellent post.I want to thank you for this informative read, I really appreciate sharing this great post. Keep up your work.

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