Concern after Severn crossings contract extended until 2018
GWENT politicians and businesses have criticised the extension of an agreement that allows a private company to run the two Severn crossings until 2018.
The Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan told a committee of MPs on Tuesday that the forecast end of the concessions - the agreement that allows Severn River Crossing PLC to run the bridges and collect tolls - is now due to end in 2018, when the two bridges will be handed over to the care of the UK Government, and not in 2017, as previously thought.
The Highways Agency agreed to an extension that allows Severn River Crossings Plc to collect tolls on the bridge - covering changes in tax and the cost of introducing card payments and that no decision has been made on the future of the crossings after this date.
The end date of the concession is being extended from when the firm has collected £995.8m in tolls to £1.2 billion, allowing the firm to collect an extra £33 million in tolls. The current toll for cars is £6.
Jessica Morden, MP for Newport East, said: "I am upset for my constituents and the businesses affected by this. It continues to be excuse after excuse for the UK government on this issue."
Steve Sulley, chairman of Newport Territory Council of the South Wales Chamber of Commerce, said: "Toll charges on the Severn Bridge have been long subject to debate."
"Research has shown that the economic impact of the tolls on business was felt on the Welsh side of the bridge to a greater extent than on the English side - with certain sectors, such as Welsh hauliers, put under a significant disadvantage owing to the tolls.
"Anything that is a barrier to trade is far from ideal in these tough economic times and it’s disappointing to learn that the contract is going to be extended by a further year hitting businesses where it hurts most."
David Davies, Monmouth MP, said: "It’s going to take longer to recoup the money than originally expected because of changes to tax rules and because the Government require SRC to provide facilities for credit cards."