Friday, July 23, 2010

Freight Group Lobby Government Over Freight Tolls Into Wales

FTA Meet Minister to Request Review
Shipping News Feature

UK – Devolution can have some strange effects when two British authorities are involved in one decision process with one half of the partnership seemingly a tad more interested in the subject matter than the other. Such seems to be the case with the toll tariffs for the Severn Crossing as has been highlighted by the Freight Transport Association this week.

After securing a commitment from the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) to look into the economic impact of tolls for the vital trade artery, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) is now seeking the same action from Westminster to explore the impact of ever increasing toll prices on businesses in south west England.

Ian Gallagher, FTA’s Head of Policy for Wales, said:

“The Severn Crossing is a crucial trade corridor affecting businesses on both sides of the river, not just Wales. Bearing the most expensive tolls in the UK didn’t stop the price rising again last year – despite toll freezes elsewhere in the UK. Given the very difficult trading conditions that many companies are still experiencing, the result of high and rising toll prices for bridge users certainly warrants serious and urgent attention at the highest level. This is why FTA welcomes the decision of the new Welsh Affairs Select Committee to investigate the impact of the Severn Crossing as its first priority.”

The FTA met with David Jones MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Wales, to propose that the WAG’s impact assessment of the Severn tolls is complemented by a sister study exploring those consequences on businesses both west and east of the River Severn. The leading trade body also suggested that a more flexible payment structure – a reduced rate for off-peak travel for commercial vehicles, for example – would engender greater benefits in terms of congestion, emissions and cost, and should certainly be considered in 2017 when the cost of constructing the bridge will have been met. Gallagher concluded:

“Delivering goods and services between Wales and England is currently priced at a premium; this is unreasonable and has cost some of our members dearly. Mr Jones has reassured us that he will be raising our concerns with the relevant government departments and we hope that our meeting was the first dialogue in a successful relationship.”