Welsh secretary confirms Severn crossing tolls to be scrapped by end of 2018
Tolls on the Severn crossings linking England with Wales are to be abolished for all vehicles at the end of 2018, it has been announced.
Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said the move would boost the economy of South Wales by around £100 million a year and could save regular users of the bridges by car as much as £1,400 a year.
The toll has been in place since the first Severn Bridge was opened in 1966, when the charge stood at two shillings and sixpence - the equivalent of 12.5p in decimal currency.
Charges are now levied only on westbound traffic - leading some to describe them as a "tax on entering Wales" - and stand at £6.70 for cars, £13.40 for large vans and minibuses and £20 for buses and lorries.
Season tickets are available at £117.92 a month for the smaller category of vehicle, £235.84 for the middle band and £396 for the larger.
Prime Minister Theresa May promised to scrap the toll in May this year, during her campaign for last month's general election.
Severn Crossings PLC was given the right to collect payments for 25 years as part of deal to build a second crossing in 1992. The two bridges will be operated by Highways England when they return to public ownership next year.
They are used by more than 25 million vehicles annually crossing the Bristol Channel on the M4 motorway.
Mr Cairns, who was announcing the decision to business leaders in Newport, 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' future prosperity and I am sure that it will be welcomed by industry and motorists alike."
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. People who use the crossing every day will save a minimum of £115 a month.
"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."
Ian Gallagher, head of policy for South West and Wales Freight Transport Association, welcomed the announcement as "excellent news for the growth of the Welsh and South West economies, a real shot in the arm for those businesses and commuters who use the bridges on a daily basis".
AA president Edmund King said: "At last the 'tax on Wales' is being abolished.
"Half of drivers say they will plan their journeys to avoid paying tolls, but for drivers from the south of England, the Severn Crossing is simplest way to enter Wales. Otherwise, it's a lengthy detour.
"The Government should go one step further and vow to scrap all public bridge tolls. The Dartford crossing was 'paid for' in 2003 and yet consecutive governments have reneged on promises to scrap tolls once the bridge was paid for."
RAC roads policy spokesman Nicholas Lyes said: "Where viable and where there are real tangible economic benefits for doing so, we would encourage the Government to look at reducing or abolishing other crossing tolls across the country to help motorists who are feeling the squeeze of rising costs presently."