The UK government has announced that it will abolish all tolls on the Severn Crossings in 2018, with free passage offered to vehicles using either of the two bridges that span from England to Wales.
The original Severn Bridge was built in 1966, providing a direct link from the M4 motorway into Wales, with a toll in place for use of the bridge to pay for the cost of construction. It continually operated above capacity and following tenders from private consortia to fund, build and operate a second bridge and take over operation of the first, in 1996 the Severn River Crossing PLC (SRC) concession opened a second bridge, the Second Severn Crossing. The bridges are used by more than 25 million vehicles each year, saving significant travel time and distance for commuters and drivers using the M4 motorway.
However, the tolls on both Severn Crossings have been seen as an economic and symbolic barrier to Wales’s future prosperity. It is estimated that the removal of tolls would boost the economy of South Wales by around £100m (US$130m) a year, and the average motorist could save over £1,400 (US$1,822) per year. Previously operated by Severn River Crossing (SRC), when the bridges come under public ownership, they will be run by Highways England (HE).
Announcing the toll’s removal, Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns said, “The decision to abolish the Severn tolls next year sends a powerful message to businesses, commuters and tourists alike that the UK government is committed to strengthening the Welsh economy. By ending tolls for the 25 million annual journeys between two nations we will strengthen the links between communities and help to transform the joint economic prospects of South Wales and the South West of England.
“I want to ensure that visitors and investors know what Wales has to offer socially, culturally and economically. Most importantly, I want the world to know how accessible we are to business. The decision we have taken today is right for Wales’s future prosperity, and I am sure that it will be welcomed by industry and motorists alike.”
UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling added, “Tens of millions of motorists a year will benefit from the end of tolls on the Severn bridges, saving them money and cutting journey times. Abolishing the crossing fee will also drive economic growth for businesses in Wales and the South West, and further strengthen the bond between our two great countries.”