BOTH Severn bridges will come into public ownership on 8th January 2018, paving the way for the tolls to be scrapped by the end of the year.
A letter from Transport Minister Jesse Norman to Monmouth MP David Davies states the bridges will revert to public ownership in January, while confirming July’s announcement that all tolls will end on the bridges by 31st December 2018.
It comes after Prime Minister Theresa May announced in May that the tolls would be scrapped if the Conservatives won June’s general election. A target date of the end of 2018 was confirmed in July by Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns.
The bridges are currently operated by Severn River Crossing Plc, a company which was founded to manage the operation and maintenance of the Severn Bridge and finance, operate and maintain the Second Severn Crossing.
Revenue from toll charges is being used to pay off these costs before both bridges return to public ownership.
June’s pledge came as a surprise to some, as a Government consultation document on the Severn Crossing tolls released in January stated that the Government was not proposing the removal of the tolls, and said it was policy that the costs of the crossings “should be paid for by the users that benefit, rather than the taxpayer.”
However from 2020-21, all revenue raised from Vehicle Excise Duty in England will be allocated to a new ‘Roads Fund’, and invested directly back into the roads network, including the Severn bridges which will be managed by Highways England.
Ongoing costs that will need to be met include the estimated £15 million annual cost to operate and maintain the crossings, a £63 million fund for fixing latent defects, and the £12 million resurfacing of the Severn Bridge.