Members of the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Joint Committee have agreed to defer plans to increase the level of tolls while they investigate other ways of generating funding to secure the financial future of the two crossings.
The impact of Covid 19 and ongoing reduction in traffic levels using the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferries during the past 18 months has created a significant financial deficit which, without intervention, will continue to grow. The latest figures show an annual funding gap of £3.5m by March 2024, with an accumulated reserve deficit of £7.8m by March 2025.
Rather than begin the formal process to increase tolls at this time, Members at today’s meeting of the Joint Committee agreed to appoint a consultant to look at the viability of the current business plan for the Tamar Crossings and the proposed approach and other options for closing the financial gap.
This work will be supported by the creation of an advisory sub-group of councillors and officers which will look at all of the assets held by Tamar Crossings, along with other potential opportunities to identify what additional income could be generated to support funding for the crossings. Potential options include seeking additional income through advertising, and the use of Tamar Crossings land and assets for commercial purposes.
A report setting out the findings of the review will be discussed at a meeting of the Joint Committee to be held in December 2021.
The Joint Chairs will also be writing to local MPs to continue seeking support in ongoing negotiations with the Department of Transport to provide financial support for two crossings. At the same time the Joint Committee will continue to negotiate with the Government for permission to apply a Retail Price Index increase to tolls. This would enable tolls to be raised in line with inflation each year rather than the current system which involves a larger increases at longer intervals.
Between them the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry carry around 18 million vehicles a year (16 million on the bridge and 2 million on the ferries), with the two crossings recognised as uniquely important to the economy of the region. The Tamar Crossings are almost entirely funded by toll income, which is used to operate, maintain and improve the bridge and ferries.
The crossings over the Tamar are crucial to local residents and businesses, as well as to people visiting Plymouth, Devon & Cornwall region. We recognise that any decision to increase tolls, particularly at this time, will have a big impact on local people.
While we need to ensure that we have the income needed to continue to maintain the bridge and the ferry, we want to make sure that we have explored all other options, including seeking financial support from the Government, before we look at raising the level of tolls. The actions agreed today will provide us with this information so we can take an informed decision in December.