The Chancellor’s Budget announcement that the Severn River Crossing tolls are to continue once the concession ends – has been described as a ‘kick in the teeth’ for businesses in Wales and south west England, by the Freight Transport Association.
The news – which was included in George Osborne’s Budget Statement, is considered a bitter blow for the freight and logistics industry, wIth the FTA saying it is disappointed that the Government has disregarded category 3 tolls (lorries, large buses and coaches) and that it does nothing to address the punitive level of the toll.
Ian Gallagher, FTA head of policy South West and Wales said: “The Chancellor’s announcement today is the first confirmation from UK Government that charging will continue after 2018 when the bridge comes into public ownership. Whilst the change to the tolls is seen good news for van and minibus operators – FTA considers it is a kick in the teeth for the logistics industry as a whole. There are three years of toll increases still to come. By 2018 we anticipate that the toll will be in excess of £20 for HGVs.”
An Arup survey in 2012 stated that Welsh GDP would increase by £107 million per annum if the charges were scrapped which is far in excess of what they would receive by continued the tolls.
On behalf of its members and the logistics industry, the FTA has long campaigned for the tolls to be abolished, and is now calling on Government to provide clear visibility of what it now intends to charge once the Severn Bridge comes into public ownership.
FTA stated that businesses have paid enough already – with many freight operators paying hundreds of thousands of pounds every year to cross the River Severn.
Gallagher added: “FTA sees this as a bitter blow for businesses in the south west and Wales which have campaigned for an end to the tolls once the concession ceases. For too long freight operators have had to pay high charges to use the Severn Crossings, which are a vital artery between Wales and England. The money that business spend on paying these tolls could be better invested on driver training or on greener fleets.”