After considering the financial situation facing the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferries and reviewing the results of the public consultation, members of the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Joint Committee have reluctantly agreed to increase tolls to secure the long- term future of the two crossings.
The decision to increase both Tag and cash tolls by 30% follows detailed consideration of the feedback received from users of the crossings and wider members of the public, and key stakeholders.
In coming to their decision, members of the Joint Committee noted the undertaking’s growing level of debt – £43.085m at the end of January 2022 – that had funded capital projects. They also noted that the repayments and interest on this debt was predicted to equate to 33% of toll income by the end of the March 2022.
Members also asked for a report into the feasibility of providing an additional toll discount for zero emissions vehicles.
Information on the proposals were sent to more than 30,000 people who used the crossings on two set days, as well as up to 100 stakeholders and partners, including local MPs, Parish and Town Councils, emergency services, high volume users of the crossings, highway authorities and motorist and industry bodies. Information was also published on the Tamar Crossings website with an email address for people to send their comments.
We received almost 4,000 responses to the consultation, with a number of people arguing that the crossings should be funded by the Government. We support this view and have been lobbying the Government to provide more funding for these vital crossings. Unfortunately, so far, the Government has turned down our request for support. The income needed to operate the crossings relies on traffic numbers, and even now, two years after the first lockdown, our traffic levels are only about 90% of pre-pandemic levels. While we will continue to make our case for more Government funding, we need to take urgent action now to ensure that we have the funding we need to continue to deliver these services.
The proposal to revise tolls was supported by members of both Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Councils at their meetings in January and February.
As Tag discount rates are set locally by the two parent authorities, the reduction in the pre-payment TamarTag discount will come into operation in May 2022. Changing the rates for cash tolls, however, requires authorisation from the Department for Transport. This means that, subject to the decision of the Department of Transport to the application, the increase in cash tolls is not likely to come into effect until January 2023.
The reluctant decision to increase tolls had to be made to secure the future of the two crossings. We have kept the proposed increase as low as possible while still ensuring the quality and sustainability of the service into the future. Even with the increase the crossings are still amongst the cheapest self-financed major tolled crossings in the UK.
The additional revenue will address the shortfall in income and provide funding to maintain current service levels and carry out further essential works on both the bridge and the ferries into the future.
We are also appointing an independent consultancy to carry out a review of the effectiveness, efficiency and governance of Tamar Crossings to inform, amongst other thing, a long-term pricing strategy that will reflect the need to manage future demand support the wider climate change agenda.