The Severn Bridges have already been paid for and to ask road users to finance additional infrastructure projects is fundamentally unfair, said the Freight Transport Association in response to the news that construction of a £1 billion M4 relief road in South Wales could be paid for by the Severn Bridge tolls.
Welsh Finance Minister Jane Hutt confirmed the possible plan to MPs on the Welsh Affairs Committee, who were taking evidence as part of their inquiry into the future of the Severn Bridges.
The Minister said that the Welsh Government would want administration of the two bridges to be passed to it in 2018, when it is anticipated that they will revert back into public ownership, but that the tolls would remain in place to cover maintenance and provide it with a revenue stream.
Ian Gallagher, FTA’s Head of Policy for Wales, said:
"FTA welcomes the suggestion by the Minister that there could be a reduction in tolls for essential users such as lorries, however as the bridges would have been paid for by users they shouldn’t be asked to finance additional infrastructure which really should be funded by Government. FTA members pay hundreds of thousands of pounds in tolls and normally this comes directly off the bottom line."
In responding to the Minister’s comments regarding the bridges providing a revenue stream, Gallagher added:
"It is an interesting argument – the government must answer the question, at what level can a toll be set so that it benefits users and provides a meaningful revenue stream?"