Drivers fear 'hammer blow' rise in toll fees at Severn bridges
Drivers fear the cost of using the two Severn bridges will go up by as much as 30p for cars next year after publication of the latest Retail Prices Index.
Severn River Crossing, the company which oversees the operation of the Severn Bridge and the Second Severn Crossing, said it had not yet agreed the annual increase, which comes in on January 1.
But with tolls based on the index (RPI), motorists said they believed that would take the charge from the current £5.30 for cars to £5.60. The fee for lorry drivers would break through the £16 barrier.
September's RPI figure, which was released yesterday, showed inflation was at five per cent and it is likely that will be used to fix the toll increase for 2009.
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Severn River Crossing normally makes its announcement on the tolls increase at about this time of year, using a formula set by the Government when it passed the Severn Bridges Act in 1992.
Michael German, leader of the Liberal Democrats at the Welsh Assembly, said if that level of increase was agreed, it would be a "real hammer blow" to commuters on both sides of the river who use the bridges regularly.
He is also concerned that the RPI might well be heading downwards by the time the new tolls are introduced in the New Year.
Mr German said he hoped the rising cost would force the Government to take action to allow credit and debit card payments at the toll booths as well as pre-payment via the internet and mobile phones.
His campaign for easier ways to pay have been supported by Northavon MP Steve Webb.
They said only being able to pay by cash or cheque was outdated.
Mr German said: "With the tolls now fast approaching £6, it is no longer reasonable to expect people to carry that much in loose change. For businesses, it's becoming a real burden.
"The rising cost of the tolls makes the campaign to allow card payments more urgent than ever. The Government needs to get together with Severn River Crossing and sort this out now."
Mr German said he wanted tolls to be scrapped once the cost of building the second crossing had been met and the bridges reverted to Government ownership.