Severn toll hike holds UK industry to ransom

Tunbridge Wells, UK: Truck operators using the Severn crossing, already the most expensive toll in the UK, will be forced to pay an extra 90pence in the New Year.

The Freight Transport Association has condemned the decision by Severn River Crossing – the bridge’s builders – to hike the charge for heavy goods vehicles to use this vital trade corridor from £17.20 to £18.10.

Ian Gallagher, FTA’s Policy Manager for Wales, said: “It would seem that under the current contract the users of the Severn crossings are at the mercy of cynical charges to use, what is for the haulage industry, an essential piece of infrastructure.

“This nightmare of successive, above-inflation annual price hikes will end in 2017 when the bridge is back in public hands.  But what this situation highlights is the need for private sector infrastructure projects in the future to more carefully consider the contractual terms so that those affected are not held to ransom with unreasonable demands.”

The FTA has suggested amending the current contract with SRC to reduce the level of tolls but to levy them over a longer period.  This would still accrue the same level of income but would place less of a burden on businesses.  The FTA is also advocating a lower tariff for nighttime crossings for commercial vehicles.

“Severn tolls already cost companies many thousands of pounds a month; this latest price hike will make life a lot tougher for hauliers who cross from England into south Wales and comes at time when companies are already struggling in the face of higher fuel costs.  In an industry with notoriously tight profit margins, road freight operators often have no choice but to pass their costs on to the customer, which stokes inflation and is certainly not good news in a faltering economy.

“Clearly, the Severn Bridges Act needs amending, and the sooner the better,” Gallagher said.

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