'Nationalise Severn bridges', says Monmouth MP David Davies
4:20pm Tuesday 4th March 2014 in News
MONMOUTH MP David Davies has called for the Severn crossings to be nationalised when the current arrangement for levying tolls comes to an end, predicted to be in 2018.
Before the second Severn bridge was built in the 1990s, the four companies that joined together to win the construction bid agreed to maintain and take on the debt of the old M48 bridge, and build a new bridge in return for £1 billion, raised by charging a toll to drivers.
By 2018 they will have been paid and both crossings revert to public ownership.
There will then be no legal contract requiring tolls to be paid, and because the bridge would be in the hands of the public, no VAT to pay either.
But the future of the crossings remains unclear as the UK Government has yet to announce what action will be taken after the current tolling regime ends.
In a letter today, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Robert Goodwill, told the Monmouth MP that for two years after 2018, the UK Government will still need to recoup £88 million that it forked out in unexpected maintenance costs.
Mr Davies MP, who is chairman of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, told the Argus that successive governments had been paid more than £88 million in windfall taxes such as the levying of VAT as dictated by Europe and changes to the industrial building tax, which he estimates to have brought in £130 million.
In his letter Mr Goodwill said VAT will no longer be payable on the tolls once back in public ownership and as such tolls could come down, but did not confirm this.
"For once I am saying 'nationalise it' - it is clearly going to be better for all of us," Mr Davies told the Argus.
"Various politicians have said 'we must scrap the toll' but that is not possible. You can dress all you want in Rebecca Riot costumes but you are not going to get rid of the tolls.
"But you can demand that the £88 million will not be paid back because the government received a greater amount through windfall taxes. We can ensure the bridge is run in the future by the government and pay no VAT. I urge everyone to start thinking about this and I will work with anyone from any party."