Severn Bridge tolls ‘unlikely’ to fall when in public hands
IT is unlikely that tolls on the Severn Bridges will fall once the vital crossings come into public ownership.
That's according to UK transport minister Stephen Hammond who said the government has substantial debts on the bridges that need to be repaid.
The Severn Bridges are currently run by a private company under a so-called concession agreement which is due to run out around 2018, at which point the bridges will return to government.
It had been believed that once that concession agreement runs out, the tolls could be lowered to as low as £1.50.
Mr Hammond told the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee, chaired by Monmouth MP David Davies, that he wasn't anticipating a drop in price when the concession ends.
He said when it goes back to public ownership there will be "substantial government debts that needs to be repaid" from building and maintaining the crossings.
He estimated the debts would amount to several hundred million.
Mr Davies said at the committee: "I think people feel angry in Wales about the costs they currently have to pay. I think some of that anger would be alleviated if they knew there was some end in sight.
"It doesn’t look as though you are able to give us that end."
A Welsh Government spokesman: "As the First Minister has made clear, it is no secret that we would like to come to an arrangement regarding the Severn Bridges when the current contract runs out.
He added: "Discussions between the Welsh Government and UK Government are ongoing."
The bridges are not devolved to the Welsh Government.