By Gee Harland
Alun Cairns, Secretary of State for Wales, announced at the annual Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, that the Severn Bridge Tolls will be removed by Monday, December 17. This came as a surprise as the removal date is ahead of schedule, but Cairns stated it is an “early Christmas Present”.
This will bring an end to 50 years of tolls at the Severn Bridge, which was built in 1966. The bridge is a motorway suspension bridge, over River Severn and River Wye. Queen Elizabeth II stated it was to be the start of a new economic era for South Wales.
The removal of the tolls is estimated to save frequent commuters up to £1500 a year. Laura Wood, a frequent commuter, believes this change to be positive and that the amount of money saved will be significant. She further explained the removal of tolls will have a positive effect on the numbers of visitors and South Wales will be more accessible. Cairn summarised this by claiming: “Wales will be open for business”
Cairn further stated he sees this as a stimulus to encourage greater economic and business collaboration between South Wales and South West England. It is estimated to bring Welsh economy a £100m boost.
As well as being a supposed catalyst for an economic boost, Cairn wants the removal of the tolls to be a sign that the UK will thrive after Brexit.
Newport resident Jemima Moorcroft agreed the removal of tolls is a great thing and hopes it will bring economic and business boosts to Newport. However, congestion issues have been bought to attention, with the M4 from the bridge to Newport, already having numerous problems. With the removal of tolls, traffic will inevitably increase.
Action has already been taken against this worry, with temporary 50mph limits being enforced whilst the tolls are removed. Moreover, £1.3bn has been invested into M4 road relief in the South of Newport, where issues are most prominent. However, Moorcroft explains that the M4 is already so frustrating, even with the tolls slowing down traffic. Carwyn Jones, first Minister of Wales, is aware of the problem and hopes the investment will be a success to solve congestion around Newport.
A stronger and better connected Wales is promised by Cairn with the removal of the tolls, starting in two months.