Severn bridges congestion charge being considered as traffic volumes and jams have soared since the crossing toll was scrapped in 2018
- The Severn crossing toll of £5.60 was abolished in December 2018
- Rise in traffic levels since has caused issues on both bridges, authorities claim
- West of England Authority said it could introduce a congestion charge on both sides of the bridges
The Severn crossing toll was only scrapped in December 2018 but authorities have announced they could start charging motorists again due to an increase in traffic levels.
The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) could introduce a congestion charge on both sides of the two Severn bridges after confirming that traffic has worsened since the tolls were abolished some 13 months ago.
It said it is considering ‘charging measures and controls’ in an effort to curb the number of jams at the crossing.
Congestion charge: Motorists could have to pay to use the Severn crossing again due to a rise in traffic levels since the toll to use the two bridges was scrapped in December 2018
Motorists have been able to cross the two Severn bridges for free since 17 December 2018.
It had previous cost car users £5.60 to cross from England into Wales – though there was no charge for travel in the opposite direction.
When abolished, it was the first time in the 52 years since the first bridge was built that motorists were exempt from charges to use them.
At the time the toll was scrapped, experts estimated that regular commuters would save around £1,400 a year, while some businesses could pocket around £55,000 in transport costs.
However, the Road Haulage Association warned that an increase in congestion as a result of there being no crossing fee could increase costs for firms that would then be passed on to consumers.
Motorists had been paying £5.60 to cross the westbound bridge since January, as the fee was no longer run by the government and was therefore VAT free, reducing the charge from £6.70. It was scrapped in December 2018, however, there has since been a significant rise in traffic
The Road Haulage Association had warned that an increase in congestion at the bridges could result in higher transportation costs for businesses, but supported the abolition of the toll
And it appears the association was correct in their prediction, with traffic levels rising since the toll was removed.
A WECA spokesman told the BBC: ‘The removal of the tolls provides many opportunities to boost the economies of the West of England and South Wales.
‘We are working with the Department for Transport, Highways England, Wales Office and Welsh Government – as well as our constituent councils – to ensure we make the most of these opportunities, while mitigating any potentially negative impacts.
‘This includes considering measures to reduce traffic flow and cut congestion.’
The plans also propose new bus routes, park and ride availability and junction improvements near the bridges to relieve congestion at the crossing.
However, in order to fund these developments, the authorities admitted it could require ‘demand-management measures, such as charging measures and controls’ on both sides of the Severn.
Charges on the original Severn Crossing have been in place since 1966, when the fee stood at two shillings and sixpence – the equivalent of around 13p in decimal currency today
The proposal was revealed in the West of England’s joint local transport plan (JLTP) – the region’s infrastructure blueprint being outlined up to 2036.
No timescales have been given for when a congestion charge might be introduced.
Charges on the original Severn crossing have been in place since 1966, when the fee stood at two shillings and sixpence – the equivalent of around 13p in decimal currency today.
They were then introduced on the second crossing – renamed the Prince of Wales Bridge in April 2018 – when it opened 30 years later in 1996.
Drivers had more recently had to pay £6.70 to cross the bridges linking Wales and England via the M4 and M48 motorways, though this was reduced to £5.60 in January 2018 as the fee was no longer run by the government and was therefore VAT free.
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