Alun Cairns: “The reduction in tolls represents a major step forward in further spurring the Welsh economy”. On 8th January, all vehicles became exempt from VAT, meaning car drivers will pocket an extra £1.10 as the charge for individual crossings reduces from £6.70 to £5.60. This change will also lift an administrative burden for business users, who will no longer need to claim back VAT.
This move is expected to save regular motorists around £1,400 per year, making it far cheaper to commute to Cardiff, Newport or Bristol. Businesses across the area will also benefit by not paying over £16 for lorries to cross the Severn – the abolition will boost the Welsh economy by over £100 million a year.
Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns said: “In less than a year we will see the biggest economic stimulus for South Wales and the valleys for decades. This important move taken by the Prime Minister and the UK Government in regard to the Severn Crossings represents a clear symbol of breaking down the economic and historic barriers which have hindered Wales’ prosperity – whilst supporting the union of the United Kingdom.
My number one priority as Secretary of State was to remove the tolls, which will not only make journeys cheaper for commuters and tourists, but will also create exciting opportunities for businesses and investors looking to make their mark in Wales.
This will boost Welsh employment and establish lasting relationships between the economies and communities of South Wales and South West England, creating the most natural growth corridor spanning from Cardiff through Newport to Bristol. It is time to make politics fit business, not business fit politics in Wales. The crossings transferred to public ownership on 8 January 2018, to be managed by Highways England. prices are shown in the chart to the right.
The Government announced that it is continuing to require payment to use the crossings, until the end of 2018, to cover costs it incurred during the concession period, and a proportion of the costs that will be incurred as a result of ending tolling.
The annual maintenance and operational costs are reported to average £15m between both bridges and the government has stated “Over the period between the transfer to public ownership on 8 January and the abolition of tolling, Highways England expect to collect sufficient revenue to operate the crossing, phase out tolling, and recover costs that taxpayers historically incurred in the maintenance of these bridges.”
However First Minister Carwyn Jones said that tolls should be removed straight away. He tweeted: “Welcome news for businesses & commuters – although the #severnbridge tolls should be scrapped now, not at the end of the year.” Another Welsh Labour politician, Newport West MP Paul Flynn added “Wales has been subjected to highway robbery by tolling from when the first bridge opened in 1966.”
Whether they end sooner than the expected date or not, the news is positive and its certainly an exciting time for property and business in Monmouthshire.