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Protesters say Severn Bridge tolls are “harming Welsh economy”

The organizers of a petition to reduce tolls on the Severn Bridge – which connects England to Wales – say the crippling high cost of using the bridge is effectively a tax on businesses and reducing the tolls would ease the burden on the Welsh economy during the present recession. It would also remove, the say, the disincentive to new business start-ups and visitors entering Wales. They also point out government inconsistencies, with financial help provided to keep down Humber Bridge tolls, but no such support has been offered to Wales. The tolls on the Severn are the highest in the UK and are set to rise again in January 2010, upon an order from the Secretary of State in line with the Severn Bridges Act 1992.

The UK’s Freight Transport Association (FTA) says the Welsh Assembly Government’s lack of understanding of the unfair burden imposed on companies doing business in Wales caused by the Severn Tolls “beggars belief”. The FTA claims that despite constant and longstanding industry calls highlighting the problem – which has landed many companies with bills in the tens of thousands – Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, has done nothing to intervene on their behalf. “The Deputy First Minister has clearly failed to listen to industry, which is suffering under the weight of this toll,” says Ian Gallagher, FTA’s policy manager for Wales. “We are very disappointed that the disproportionate cost burden imposed on companies doing business in Wales is not on the Assembly Government’s political radar – more so at this time of recession.”

“Business owners and the public are effectively being taxed to live and work in this part of the UK,” adds the petition organizer, Denise Lovering of Glenside Commercials Ltd. “What makes these fees even more unfair for motorists and businesses alike is the lack of consistency applied by the government to other bridge users around the country. The recession does not discriminate by region and neither should the government. A rethink is needed if we are to avoid unfair penalizing of those who choose to do business in Wales.”

In October, announcing a grant of £6 million (US$9.8 million) to the Humber Bridge company, Sadiq Khan, the Minister of Transport, said, “the Government was committed to doing everything it can to protect communities and businesses from economic downturn and help the country to recover. That is why I decided not to accept the Humber Bridge board’s proposed toll increases.”

 

December 17, 2009

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