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M4 relief road row erupts as Severn bridge tolls near end

1 severn bridge

A row has broken out about the UK government’s motivation in lifting tolls on the Severn bridge. 

The tolls on the two Severn crossings, currently £5.60 for cars, have been in place since the original bridge was opened in 1966 and are set to be scrapped in December.

However, Welsh Labour & Co-operative AM for Llanelli Lee Waters has accused the UK Government of using the tolls to ”force the Welsh Government to build a new motorway”.

He claims that removing the tolls would serve to cement the requirement for network upgrades due to an increase in congestion across the Severn bridge. His claim has come after a UK Government study revealed that the relief road may lead to an additional 6M vehicles a year.

Waters accused UK ministers of conspiring to “dictate” Welsh transport policy by unleashing extra traffic on the roads.

Waters said: “First they tried to bribe us with borrowing powers if only we used it on a new road, now they admit the effect of removing the tolls would act to hasten the requirement for upgrades to the network.”

However, UK secretary of state for Wales Alun Cairns dismissed the accusation while affirming that there have been calls from the business community and from people across the whole of South Wales to build a new motorway around Newport.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The prime minister and Secretary of State for Wales are committed to scrapping tolls on the Prince of Wales Bridge and Severn Crossing in a matter of weeks, strengthening south Wales’ economic potential and connecting communities on both sides of the border.”

A Welsh Government spokesman added: “We have been liaising with Highways England and a joint report on modelling the effect of removal of the Severn Crossing tolls is due to be published shortly.”

Abolishing the tolls would deliver a £1bn boost to the Welsh economy, the UK Government has claimed.

Meanwhile, the M4 relief road project is designed to relieve congestion on the route which runs north of Newport, which narrows to two lane dual carriageway at the Brynglas tunnels.

The proposal includes a six-lane stretch of motorway south of Newport and a 440m cable stay bridge across the River Usk as well as major remodelling of junctions 23 and 29 of the M4.

In March 2015, the Welsh government appointed a joint venture between Costain and Vinci to provide design development of the scheme.

The project design development team for the bridge consists of Costain, Vinci and Taylor Woodrow with consultants Arup and Atkins, supported by environmental consultant RPS.

A 13-month inquiry into the project ended in March. A joint report, carried out in conjunction with Highways England, will be published shortly and will look at the effect of the removal of both Severn crossing tolls.

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