Following the release of the Welsh government report 'The Impact of the Severn Tolls on the Welsh Economy,' on 5 November, the Freight Transport Association is optimistic that finally there is room for further discussion over the relaxation of tolls at the Severn Crossings, and welcomes the fact that the debate has begun in earnest.
Compiled by ARUP, the independent report first requested from the Welsh government by FTA in 2010 revealed that the Severn Crossing tolls are costing the Welsh economy around £80 million a year and have led to the announcement by First Minister Carwyn Jones that the UK government is to open discussions with the Welsh government on the arrangements governing the Severn Crossings after 2018.
The tolls, which currently stand at £18.10 for heavy goods vehicles (Vehicle Category 3) significantly increase the cost of journeys for freight between South Wales and parts of the south and south west of England using the Severn Crossings which are the primary gateway to South Wales.
The Crossings cater for daily traffic flows of around 80,000 vehicles, and the report confirms the importance of the bridges to businesses in South Wales. The report highlights the impact the tolls have on the transport and logistics industry, for which tolls amount up to 10 per cent of operating costs.
Ian Jarman, Environmental & Legislation Manager for Owens Road Services based in Llanelli which operates across South Wales said: "If the reduction (in tolls) takes place, then the Welsh government must look at ways of easing congestion at the critical pinch point on the M4 at the Bryn Glas Tunnels. There must be a long-term strategy to improve infrastructure and connectivity with England and Europe and as part of the Trans European Network, due to the anticipated increase in traffic volumes which will use this stretch of motorway."
Ian Gallagher, FTA Policy Manager for Wales, responded to the report by saying: "The publication of this report clearly highlights that not only is the logistics sector disproportionately impacted through high tolls, but also shows the lost opportunities for the South Wales economy as a whole. I would urge the Welsh and UK governments to fully understand what this report clearly shows, and what the logistics sector has argued for some time - a reduction in tolls post 2018 is the only option which will see an increase from indirect revenue from commuters, business and the leisure industry.”
"The management structure of the Crossings is not the concern of the logistics industry; what matters to businesses across Wales is that the tolls, which are currently crippling the Welsh economy, are scaled back to a level that the logistics industry can afford, and which do not act as a barrier to doing business in Wales."