“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times………………”
Earlier in the year, it was announced that the toll on the Humber Bridge was going to be increased. The people of Grimsby and surrounding area, reacted to this news by starting a petition against the increase and getting it signed by 10,000 people! In the face of this huge opposition, the Minister of Transport refused to increase the tolls.
In October it was announced that the Government was giving a grant of £6m to the Humber Bridge Company, so that they can freeze the tolls until 2011, the grant will be used for necessary maintenance. In announcing this, the Minister for Transport, Sadiq Khan, said that “the Government is committed to doing everything it can to protect communities and businesses from economic downturn and to help the country recover”
The news of the grant was met with an angry response by transport and haulage companies on both side of the Severn Estuary. Many companies who operate across this Welsh-Anglo border, rack up tens of thousands of pounds each year in tolls just to cross the river and though the Government’s commitment to reducing costs is very welcome, it should be applied across the board. The Freight Transport Association responded to the Minister’s comments by issuing a press release calling for the same commitment to be given to Wales and the South-West.
However, it is not just transport companies who are affected, although the tolls they pay are the highest in the UK. Paying the toll has a knock-on effect for every company who use the Severn crossings in the course of their business. It is seen as huge a disadvantage by many large companies when looking at this part of Wales as a possible business venue.
Both bridges are owned and operated by Severn Crossing plc, but the ownership of the bridges should not be a reason to do nothing. There is a solution to every problem if you try hard enough to find it.
The Government, in its’ wisdom, decided to add VAT to the tolls back in 2003. The tolls were not increased, so this slipped relatively easily under the radar and they just agreed with the company to extend their term of ownership. This has meant that the bridges will not revert back to public ownership now until some time around 2016 and we just go on paying………….
So, although age has curbed my former redheaded temper, I just felt that I couldn’t sit on the sidelines on this one. I feel that the people and businesses of Wales have enough on their plate at the moment; times are tough out there and we need all the help we can get! After the initial rise in blood pressure, I decided that I too would start a petition, to ask the Government for help for the Welsh economy too. And, in this highly computerised world we now live in, I chose an e-Petition.
If you feel as strongly as I do about the inequality of this gesture by the Government, then please will you follow the link and sign the petition. I am told that if we get more than 500 signatures the Government has to respond.