Residents urged to object to rise in Clifton Suspension bridge toll
A CAMPAIGNER is urging people to object to the planned toll increase on the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
On August 1 the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust submitted their application to increase the toll from 50p to £1 per crossing. People have until September 12 to submit their objections.
David Newman, who has been a resident of Leigh Woods for 30 years, believes that the price hikes are unnecessary and will have a knock-on effect for residents and motorists on alternative routes.
He told the Post that he was worried that the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust was using the money to pay for "vanity projects", such as the planned heritage and learning centre.
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The trust insisted that the rise was solely to deal with increasing operational and maintenance costs and had nothing to do with other projects.
Mr Newman, 58, who was an objector at a public inquiry into the last price rise, said: "If Bristolians allow this to go ahead unopposed it will not only have a devastating effect on their pockets, it will also have a dramatic impact on traffic flow in Clifton, the Cumberland Basin, Hotwells, Bower Ashton, Leigh Woods, Abbots Leigh, Pill, and the wider North Somerset area.
"The most clear consequence of the 100 per cent rise is that most motorists will stop using the bridge. As a result the Portway, the A369 and routes from the M5 will seize up in gridlock.
"Additionally, drivers, while cutting through Clifton, will bring dangerous pressure to 'rat runs' where families are already struggling to get their children to school safely."
Mr Newman added that he does not believe the trust needs the extra revenue that would be generated by a toll hike to carry out its job of maintaining the bridge.
He said: "The bridge already has a large cash reserve. The problem is that the trustees can't help making their own spin-off vanity projects like the ill-fated monstrosity of a visitor centre."
David Anderson, the Clifton Suspension Bridgemaster, said that a new heritage and learning centre, which would include an exhibition space around three times the size of the one in the current temporary accommodation, was not being paid for by the latest price rise.
He said that the money was taken from reserves built up over the years with the help of a possible heritage lottery grant.
He added: "The money raised from the new toll will be used purely for the maintenance and operating costs of the bridge – which continue to rise year-on-year. We only carry out work that is essential with this money and for this we must obtain the sufficient amount of income."
Mr Anderson also stressed that the discounts on the frequent users cards will still be "generous" and have only risen with inflation.
The price of 1,000 crossings is set to rise from £320 to £350, while 100 crossings will go up from £43 to £50 after stagnating for three years.
He also added that he doesn't believe that a price increase for casual users will put people off using the bridge and subsequently block alternative routes.
He said: "We hope that the rise will actually make people realise that there is a lot of important and expensive work to be done on the bridge which requires extra funds. It may also encourage people to buy a card which can significantly reduce their costs when using the bridge regularly."
The toll has been set at 50p per crossing since January 2007. If the new rise is approved by the Department for Transport (DfT), the price could change before the end of the year.
The National Alliance Against Tolls has urged people to stand up to the price rises by writing to the DfT.
John McGoldrick, the alliance's co-ordinator, said: "The biggest problem we have with the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust is that a large portion of their money seems to go on other activities instead of purely maintenance.
"It makes us ask why are the trust expecting drivers to fork out and pay for this?"
To make a formal objection to the increase, an email or letter can be written to the DfT via julian. email@example.com or Secretary of State for Transport, c/o Julian Smith, Department for Transport Zone, 2-14 Horseferry Rd, London, SW1 P4DR.