The two Severn Bridges are now toll free.
Drivers can travel for free across both the Prince of Wales and original Severn Crossing for the first time in 52 years from this morning. The abolition of the tolls, following an announcement by the UK Government last year, comes as thousands of people are expected to make their journeys home for the festive period.
The tolls’ removal will save regular commuters around £1400 per year, according to the Highways Agency, and provide an estimated annual boost of over £100 million for the Welsh economy. Businesses will also benefit from strengthened links between communities ranging from west Wales to the south west of England by making it easier for consumers and employees to cross the border.
Tolls have been charged on the Severn Crossings since 1966, and the final driver to pay to cross over from England to Wales (on Sunday 16 December) was the Welsh Secretary, Alun Cairns.
Alun Cairns said: “The end of the tolls is a major milestone for the economies of south Wales and south west of England, and will remove historic barriers between communities. Scrapping the tolls means an end to generations of people paying to simply cross the border, and delivering this has been one of my key aims as Welsh Secretary.”
Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling added: “We made a commitment in the manifesto to deliver free crossings over the Severn and that’s exactly what we’re delivering.”
The Road Haulage Association cautiously welcomes the Government’s announcement that tolls operating on the Severn crossings will be scrapped.
RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett said: “Removing the tolls will be a tremendous boost to businesses who use these major routes.
“However, the increase in traffic will inevitably put more a strain on the road network. If the infrastructure can’t cope then the benefits will be offset by the increase in congestion.”
According to Savills estate agents, in The Forest of Dean, house prices rose by approximately 10.5 per cent, more than almost anywhere else in the UK. Experts think this could be down to pent up demand from Bristol workers seeking more affordable housing that their city can provide.
Ian Mean, Director at Business West, said: “The lifting of the tolls on the Severn Bridges provides the Forest of Dean with an unequalled opportunity to expand its businesses.
“The Forest is now not only a key gateway between our regions but with the close links being developed with South Wales – nations as well.
“For too long, the Forest has been seen as something of an island in Gloucestershire, right on the Welsh border and often ignored. It is now ready for take-off as far as the development of new business is concerned and the expansion of the great companies already with a home there.
“There is a great, skilled workforce in the Forest working for companies like Suntory, JD Norman, Simplicity and Severn and Wye.
“The invigorated Forest Economic Partnership has developed really good plans to energise the area to attract new business investment and make the most of the Forest’s brilliant environment and tourism potential. Ding, dong the tolls are dead but the Forest is very much alive and kicking.”