Inquiry into future of Severn River Crossings

Highways Reporters

An inquiry into the future of the Severn River Crossings will see MPs examine plans for transition to public ownership and a reduction in toll fees.

The inquiry comes as the date when the bridges revert to public ownership comes closer. The Welsh Affairs Committee intend to establish the timescale for this process to take place and examine what plans are in place to ensure a smooth handover. Traffic congestion, highway maintenance and toll payment methods will also be scrutinised.

The Severn Bridge and Second Severn Crossing are vital links between South Wales and England. There has long been public interest in the effects of the tolls on the economy of the region and its impact on users of the bridges. On 16 March, the Chancellor announced in the Budget that, subject to public consultation, once the crossings are in public ownership, the government will halve the tolls. A Government review of the case for free-flow tolling was also announced.

Committee chairman David T.C. Davies said: "The announcement that the tolls are to be halved is fantastic news for the south Wales economy. Whilst this is not as much of a reduction as some were hoping for, it is certainly a welcome step forward. It is also an example of the change that can be achieved when MPs from all parties work together closely.

“The main priority now is to ensure a proper handover plan is in place when the bridges revert to public ownership. Furthermore, the potential for installing an electronic pre-pay system is a key issue, as reducing the tolls is likely to increase traffic levels and could lead to big queues on the toll plaza. The Committee will also look the long-term future of the crossings and the important role they play in boosting the Welsh economy.”

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