Leading trade body the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has accused the Government of sending out mixed messages to businesses. The accusation came as Transport Minister Sadiq Khan announced a £6m grant to the Humber Bridge Company just months after freezing the tolls, while being resistant to similar measures for the Severn Crossing.
Despite Mr Khan’s assertion that "the Government is committed to doing everything it can to protect communities and businesses from economic downturn, and to help the country recover", there was anger from FTA’s members in Wales and the south-west that the same commitment was not being afforded to them.
Ian Gallagher, FTA’s Policy Manager for Wales, said:
"Many companies operating across the Anglo-Welsh border are racking up tens of thousands of pounds in tolls each year. The Government’s commitment to reducing business costs is welcome, but it has to be applied across the board. The recession is not discriminating by region, and neither should the Government.
"The irony is that the Severn Crossing will probably be paid off well ahead of schedule,, thanks in part to the popularity of the Millennium Stadium, so there really is no excuse for hiking up toll prices year in year out, especially during an exceptionally testing recession."
In July 2009, FTA called for a rethink on the level of tolls on the Severn Crossing in light of the Government’s decision to freeze tolls on the Humber Bridge. FTA has suggested amending the current contract with the bridge’s builders, Severn River Crossing plc, to reduce the level of tolls but to levy them over a longer period of time. This would still accrue the same level of income but would place less of a burden on businesses. FTA is also advocating a lower tariff for night-time crossings for commercial vehicles.