No plans for return of Severn Bridge tolls – Lee Waters
Twm Owen, local democracy reporter
The man responsible for transport in Wales has said there are no plans to bring back tolls on the Severn bridges and that “there never have been”.
Lee Waters, who as deputy minister for climate change is in charge of transport policy, was responding to question about a council plan that suggested the reintroduction of charges to cross the bridges that connect South East Wales with the west of England could be on the cards.
Welsh Conservative transport spokesperson Natasha Asghar, raised the local transport plan, produced by Monmouthshire Council in the Senedd. It listed lobbying for the reintroduction of the charges, scrapped by the UK Governnent in 2018, as a potential scheme it could support.
Ms Ashgar said the idea was “hidden away” in the plan and noted the council said it could “reduce journeys to and from Bristol by private car and reduce traffic on the M4 and M48.”
The South East Wales member said reintroducing the tolls would have a “devastating impact on residents, businesses and drivers – and would be the final nail in the coffin for our economy.”
She asked: “Out of interest do you support the return of the tolls, and will you put pressure on your Labour colleagues at the council to make sure this horrendous idea is a non-starter?”
Mr Waters said the council had included the idea in its plan to look at a “whole series of things” but “concluded in this case this isn’t a desirable way to go forward”.
He added: “She (Ms Ashgar) knows that full well. There are no plans to reintroduce tolls on the Severn Bridge, there never have been plans and it was simply looking at all the options as is responsible to do so. They would not be fulfilling their jobs had they not looked at all the options.”
Mr Waters had said the council was “legally required” to produce a transport plan and to consider all options as part of it. Monmouthshire council has said the responsibility for producing such plans has now passed to combined committees of regional councils but it had created its own plan to influence the south east Wales document as well as address specific transport issues in the county.
The deputy minister criticised Ms Ashgar’s approach and her “grasp” of transport policy and how it is produced.
Ms Ashgar had raised her question in the Senedd a day after her South East Wales Conservative colleague Laura Ann Jones had requested a statement but was told an options appraisal by a county council wasn’t a matter for the deputy minister to comment on.
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