CHARGES to cross the Severn Bridge could be scrapped if the Liberal Democrats are part of the next Government.
The change would see the tolls scrapped completely which the Liberal Democrats say would be a “huge boost” for the economy.
There would be no charge retained to cover maintenance of the bridge, and the proposal would cost £15million annually to the Treasury.
Responsibility and ownership of the bridges will be returned to the UK Government in 2017/18 once takings from the tolls reach £996million at 1989 prices.
At present, the M48 Severn Bridge and M4 Second Severn crossing are used by more than 80,000 vehicles every day at a cost of £6.40 for cars and £19.20 for lorries.
Jeremy Hilton, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Gloucestershire County Council, said: “This is a good idea because it will reduce the amount of traffic coming through Gloucester and through the Forest of Dean to avoid paying the toll.
“It will also make it quicker and easier for people in Gloucestershire to get to Cardiff. It will also help to connect South Wales to the rest of England to boost the economy.
“We’re all paying road tax so it’s right that the tolls should be scrapped.”
The two bridges between England and Wales, opened in 1966 and 1996 respectively, are operated by the Severn River Crossing company, in which French company Vinci Concessions owns a 35 per cent stake.
The Liberal Democrats are proposing to lift the toll charges once the current concession comes to an end.
Paul Willetts, owner of F R Willetts coach company in Yorkley, said: “This is a good idea because at the moment these foreign lorries are going through Gloucester and Newent on the A48.
“It would also help the economy in the Forest because more people from Bristol will be coming to the area.”
Mark Owen, Gloucestershire and the west of England’s regional chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “I believe that the tolls should stay as they are.
“The money should instead be invested in a third bridge further along the Severn to improve access from the Forest of Dean and Wales.
“I think it’s easy to promise things when they’re never realistically going to get into power. ”
Roger Marchant, owner of Marchant’s coaches and board member for transport at Cheltenham’s Chamber of Commerce, said: “Our trips to Cardiff are popular but every time we go out there we pay £19.20 to go over the bridge.
“Many drivers do their best to avoid it. There’s also the hassle of paying at the toll bridge and waiting around.
“It would be good for Gloucestershire if the tolls were removed.”