Drivers will no longer have to pay tolls on the Severn Crossings by the end of 2018, Wales secretary Alun Cairns has announced.
People who use the crossings from England to Wales on the M4 every day could save around £1,400 a year, based on a monthly tag charge of £117.92.
The Severn Crossings bridges are used by more than 25 million vehicles each year, and save significant travel time and distance for commuters and drivers using the M4 and M48 motorways.
Mr Cairns said: ‘The decision we have taken today is right for Wales’ future prosperity and I am sure that it will be welcomed by industry and motorists alike.’
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘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.’
A 2012 report – Welsh Government: The Impact of the Severn Tolls on the Welsh Economy – drew the ‘tentative conclusion’ from its economic modelling exercise that ‘removing the tolls would boost productivity by in the order of 0.48% which would translate to an increase in the annual Gross Value Added (GVA) of South Wales of around £107m’.
Ian Gallagher, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) head of policy for Wales and the South West, said: “We have fought long and hard on behalf of FTA members to get these charges removed. They represent a huge financial burden for logistics companies in the area – money that would be better spent on upskilling, recruitment and purchasing greener vehicles.”
The administration of the two bridges is expected to revert to central government control at the end of this year or in early 2018. When the bridges come under public ownership, they will be run by Highways England. Previously it has been run by Severn River Crossing plc.
The first Severn Bridge was opened in September 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.
In 1988 it was announced that tenders would be invited from private consortia to fund, build and operate the second bridge and take over the operation of the first bridge. In 1990 the concession was awarded to Severn River Crossing PLC (“SRC”). Construction work also started in April 1992 and the second bridge was opened in June 1996.