UK Government rejects idea of charging drivers to cross the River Severn on the M4
The UK government has said there are no plans to re-introduce charges for drivers to cross the River Severn on the M4.
Congestion has risen significantly on both sides of the river, including in areas like Chepstow, as a result of the removal of the tolls on drivers using the Severn bridges.
And a local transport plan put forward by a joint body of the three councils of the west of England – Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath and north-east Somerset – had looked at ways of mitigating this, including suggesting road pricing on both sides of the Severn.
A UK Government spokesperson said that the bridges and the M4 in England were managed by Highways England, not the local authorities, and that any congestion charging would not be introduced to cross the Severn bridges.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “The UK Government has no plans to reintroduce tolls or charges on the Severn Crossings.
“We removed the tolls to boost business, enhance inward investment, increase tourism and create jobs on both sides of the Severn.
“Since their abolition, motorists are collectively saving hundreds of thousands of pounds per day and travel between Wales and south west England has been made easier.”
The West of England combined authority joint local transport plan had looked in detail at how congestion could be managed across the region.
Part of the report looked at the impact of the removal of charges on the M4 and raised fears that it would continue to increase congestion on the M4 and M5 and have impacts further afield.
It said that buses would also become slower as they became stuck in the additional traffic and trains could become less attractive as the cost of travelling by private car was reduced by the lack of the Severn tolls.
To reduce this congestion, it proposed diverting traffic to the Bristol urban area from the M4 onto the M49 and encouraging people travelling to north Somerset or Bristol to use park and rides or buses.
It also proposed improving public transport linking the west of England with Chepstow, Newport and Cardiff and congestion charging to encourage people to use it.
Two ideas looked at in more detail for road charging in the report involved roads pricing covering the Bristol and Bath urban areas to try to divert people onto public transport.
It said such charges to enter urban areas “would help fill the funding gap and raise revenue for infrastructure delivery, but would be extremely challenging to deliver”.
It said that its consultation suggested roads pricing would be more popular as a way of raising money for transport improvements than council tax increases.
On the other side of the Severn, Cardiff council is also looking at a form of congestion charging to deter people from driving into the city and help fund public transport improvements.