The start of a new year always brings with it two financial stings for commuters: a rail fare increase – which, at 3.4 per cent, has been the heftiest since 2013 – and a rise to the toll on the two Severn Bridges.
Only this time, the latter has failed to materialise, much to the relief of many businesses operating in the south-west region. In fact, the toll will actually decrease for the first time in over 50 years.
The tolls on the two Severn Crossings are usually increased in line with annual inflation on the first day of the year. However, in a refreshing twist of fate, the toll will actually be reduced for the first time since 1966 from Monday (January 8th).
This means that cars will be charged £5.60 to use the bridges, instead of £6.70. Small buses and vans will pay £11.20 – previously £13.40 – while lorries and coaches will be asked to pay £16.70, down from £20.00.
Daily users of the crossing stand to save about £1,400 a year when the toll is completely abolished.
Around 25 million journeys are made across the two bridges every year and the Welsh government has estimated that the ultimate abolition of the charges will benefit their economy by around £100 million a year.
‘Barrier to growth’
Secretary of state for Wales Alun Cairns said the removal of the tolls would deliver a financial boost for commuters, tourists and business owners.
He commented: “The major level of tolls on the Severn Crossings have represented a drag and barrier to Wales’ economic growth for over half a century.
“The tolls’ removal will cement the ties between the economies and communities of South Wales and south-west England, creating a growth corridor spanning from Cardiff through Newport to Bristol.”
Although many have come to accept that a new year automatically means a more expensive Severn Bridge toll, the tolls’ reduction and forthcoming scrappage shouldn’t have been such a shock.
Chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed during the Autumn Budget in November that tolls on the Severn Bridges would be cut in January 2018 as they come back into public ownership, ahead of the crossing fees being scrapped altogether before the end of 2018.
Ben Robb, brand manager at The Fuelcard People, added: “Businesses using the Severn Crossings will breathe a sigh of relief that this toll reduction-cum-removal has actually come to fruition. It will literally save them thousands in fleet operating costs.”