The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has welcomed the beginning of the end for crippling year on year toll increases for users of the two Severn Bridges on the M4 and M48.
However, the Association has urged the government to confirm the date by which tolls will be removed from the bridges altogether, in order to provide a vital boost to the economies of South Wales and the South West of England.
Ian Gallagher, FTA Policy Manager for Wales and the Southwest said: “Today marks a turning point for users of the bridges, although the reduction by the rate of VAT has little impact on the business community which, in many cases, can reclaim this cost.The intended removal of all charges on the bridges by the end of this year is a welcome boost to logistics businesses in both the South West and South Wales already facing serious financial pressures. With the uncertainty of Brexit looming, anything which can help to boost business revenues is great news to keep economies on both sides of the Severn estuary trading effectively.”
From 00.01 Monday 8 January 2018 control of the bridges will come back into public ownership and become the responsibility of the Government owned body, Highways England. At this point the charges will be reduced by the level of VAT, which will see the rate for crossing the bridge reducing to £5.60 from £6.70 for car drivers, £11.20 from £13.40 for van operators and £16.70 from £20.00 for Large Goods Vehicles.
The Freight Transport Association and its membership has lobbied constantly for the removal of tolls on the Severn crossings, work which cumulated in July 2017 with the welcome announcement by the Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns that 2018 would indeed see an end to all tolls. And as Gallagher continues, in addition to saving FTA members millions of pounds, this is money which can be reinvested into UK businesses to upgrade fleets or upskill staff:
“At such an uncertain time for the logistics industry, the injection of capital previously used for the payment of tolls will go a long way to future-proofing those businesses which keep Wales and England trading. What’s required now is a commitment from Highways England to a date in 2018 when all charges will go, and for any business looking to invest along the M4 corridor, a guarantee that charges will not be reintroduced at some point in the future.”
FTA is the only organisation in the UK that represents all of logistics, with more than 16,000 members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers whose businesses depend on the efficient movement of goods. Established in 1889, FTA’s members operate more than half of the UK’s HGV fleet, are responsible for more than 90% of freight moved by rail, and 70% of the UK’s sea and air freight. The UK logistics sector employs more than 2.5 million people (almost 10% of the UK workforce), and by Keeping Britain Trading directly impacts every aspect of daily life.