Happy birthday

By | Category: Travel rumblings
Happy birthday? Twenty years of tolls © Dan Sperrin

Happy birthday? Twenty years of tolls © Dan Sperrin

The second Severn Bridge, the newer of the two that links England and South East Wales over the River Severn, marked its 20th anniversary last Sunday.  I didn’t actually see any bunting of flags or even a sign announcing the fact when I went over it on Monday but the traffic was unusually heavy for a Monday mid-morning so maybe they had converged on the toll booths to celebrate this birthday. Or the partying just lasted the Sunday

Is it really twenty years? The bridge cost £330 million or £16.5 million for every year that it has been there to date. In 2015, Severn River Crossing plc increased profits from £29.4m a year earlier to £38.8m so even its profits were twice what the bridge would cost if it had been amortised over the twenty years. Currently car drivers pay £6.60; last year it was only slightly less but it helped to contribute to the £98 million turnover of Severn River Crossing. Does it really cost about £60 million to maintain and run the bridge?

From concept to opening, the bridge took about eight years (a lot quicker than building an airline terminal, a runway or an airport) and all of it was under the watch of five Conservative transport ministers. In those days, the mantra was private contractors but I’m not sure that the ministers realised how much money they were giving Severn River Crossing.

Another Tory, George Osborne, announced in the last budget that the tolls would be halved from 2018 when the bridges became publically owned again. Halved! They ought to be free after the amount that has been contributed to the coffers of Severn River Crossing.

Welsh political parties want to scrap the toll believing it would remove a drag from growth in the Welsh economy and encourage more tourism. To be honest, until the toll is removed completely, none of us will know what benefits might accrue. In the meantime both domestic and overseas holidaymakers get a shock at the size of the toll and that can’t be good for a government whose prime minister keeps maintaining how important tourism is.

Happy birthday.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.
Tags: , ,