The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has left the Welsh Affairs Committee (WAC) in no doubt about its views on the Severn Crossing tolls. In FTA’s written submission to WAC Inquiry, the leading trade body has highlighted the damage that unchecked and successive price increases have made on businesses and urged Government to freeze toll levels in 2011.
Ian Gallagher, FTA’s Policy Manager for Wales and the South West, said:
"It is absolutely ludicrous that businesses still trying to recover from the worst recession in recent history are being held to ransom by gratuitous and cynical price hikes across what is an essential trade corridor connecting England with south Wales. Some of our members spend many thousands of pounds on these tolls every month – it is simply unsustainable."
FTA has also recommended that the crossing operator considers the deployment of more flexible payment methods, in line with other tolling systems in operation across the UK.
"A reduced rate for off-peak travel for commercial vehicles, for example – would engender greater benefits in terms of congestion, emissions and cost, and should certainly be considered in 2017 when the bridge is expected to be back in public ownership. At the very least, users should be given the option of credit and debit card payments, a service which Severn River Crossing Plc are legally able to introduce today."
Taken as a comparison alongside other UK tolled infrastructure it becomes increasingly clear that users of the Severn Bridge are paying considerably more than elsewhere in the country.
"Companies doing business between England and south Wales are effectively being taxed for the privilege. This simply has to stop or else we risk the recovery of the Welsh economy as a whole.
"A UK-wide infrastructure tolling policy would remove the massive disparity that currently exists, and could safeguard users against future unmonitored concessionary price rises."