The Freight Transport Association is optimistic that 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, following the release of the Welsh Report ‘The Impact of the Severn Tolls on the Welsh Economy’.
The independent report first requested from the Welsh Government by the FTA in 2010, revealed that the Severn Crossing tolls are costing the Welsh economy around £80 million a year, and has led to the announcement by First Minister Carwyn Jones for the UK Government 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 Southwest 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 in particular highlights the impact the tolls have on the transport and logistics industry where the tolls amount up to 10 per cent of their operating costs.
Ian Jarman, Owens Environmental & Legislation Manager, based in Llanelli and operating across South Wales said: "If the reduction 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 – as part of the long-term strategy to improve infrastructure and connectivity with England and Europe – due to the anticipated increase in traffic volumes which will use this stretch of motorway.
Ian Gallagher, FTA policy manager for Wales, said: "The publication of this report clearly highlights that not only is the logistics sector disproportionally 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."