Toll removal needs to be supported by infrastructure investment
The removal of tolls for the Severn Bridges needs to be supported by wider investment in regional infrastructure if it is to have a meaningful impact.
The tolls were officially removed yesterday after Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns pledged to end them on 2 October 2018. The move was slated to help jump-start growth across South Wales by stimulating improved accessibility.
The removal of the tolls could deliver over £1,400 a year in savings for drivers travelling between England and Wales, improving connectivity between labour markets.
Claims have also been made that the move could boost the Welsh economy by up to £1 billion and would help regenerate the city of Newport as well as its surrounding regions.
However, Huw Jones, director and head of planning Wales, believes that while the move should be welcomed, it alone is unlikely to help drive regeneration across the region.
He said: “A serious plan to drive regeneration across the region requires a much more holistic approach than simply waiving the tolls. It’s a first step that needs to be supported by a range of other measures if there is to be any significant impact. What we need is joined-up planning policy on both sides of the Severn Bridge. One that is responsive to changing market conditions. Sustained investment in infrastructure is critical.
“We would like to see progress on a number of fronts, including the delivery of the M4 Relief Road, electrification of the Swansea to London railway line, improved capacity at Cardiff and Bristol airports, the provision of new metro stations, and road improvements in the west of England on the M4 and M5 networks.
“There is a great deal of work to do if we’re going to see the much-anticipated Western Growth Engine come to fruition. Without a clear vision, and an appetite to invest in infrastructure, our region won’t capture the opportunity to drive growth.”
18 December 2018