We'll be paying Severn Bridge toll longer
THE firm which owns the two Severn Bridges has struck a deal to operate its controversial tolls for longer.
The French owners of the bridges charges car drivers £6 to cross into Wales per journey. The tolls are among the highest in the country and have long been criticised on both sides of the Severn.
The money collected from motorists is being used to pay for the cost of building the new Severn Bridge with the bill to be paid in 2016.
But that is now likely to be extended after it emerged that Severn River Crossings plc, the company set up to run the bridges, made losses of £13 million last year.
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As a result the company has struck a deal with the Highways Agency to allow it to run the bridges until it has gathered an extra £33 million.
Based on the amount collected each year the firm would have to run the bridges for an extra five months.
The Severn Crossings firm said its finances had been hit by a fall in the number of people using the bridges and changes in tax regulations.
The company has issued a notice to the Stock Market and to its shareholders telling them about the agreement.
The firm said that it and the Highways Agency "have been involved in detailed and prolonged discussions regarding certain issues that have arisen".
The firm also revealed that Highways Agency demands for credit card payment at tolls would cost it an extra £13.63 million in spending and running costs this year. The company added that changes under the new agreement would raise the money it is able to take in tolls from £995.83 million to £1.029 billion.
A spokesman for the Highways Agency said: "We have agreed a settlement in principle with the concessionaire, Severn River Crossings, which reflects recent tax changes and the costs of introducing card payments at the tolls. The extension to the concession allows for a longer tolling period, as it is the additional toll revenue of £33 million which finances the settlement.
"This change to the concession agreement still needs to be agreed by the concessionaire, venture stockholders and the Secretary of State before it can be formally implemented."