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Plan to hike crossing fee is scrapped after deal; GOVERNMENT FUNDING WILL HELP TO DEAL WITH DEFICIT.

Byline: AARON GREENAWAY aaron.jamesgreenaway@reachplc.com

TOLLS for crossing the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry will not increase in the new year, as previously suggested, after a funding deal was reached between the Government and the two councils which jointly operate the bridge.

Additional funding of PS1.6 million has been provided by the UK Government to Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council to cover a proportion of the shortfall faced because of the impact coronavirus restrictions have had on revenue provided through the tolls.

Both councils will receive PS821,553 from the compensation scheme set up by the Government to help local authorities deal with coronavirus, covering up to July, 2020. The joint authority is also working on a second funding bid to cover the rest of the year, which bridge bosses say they anticipate to be successful.

However, they also warn that the increases may happen in the future depending on the financial situation of the crossings. This is because the Tamar Bridge relies solely on its income with no central subsidy and, with financial reserves depleted in addition to legislation preventing them from running at a loss, any shortfall in funding is required to be paid for by the two councils.

In addition, the bridge's operators say they are pursuing a longer-term funding solution involving securing a financial contribution from Highways England, with the Minister of State for Aviation, Maritime and Security instructing officials to enter into discussions with Highways England with a view to doing this.

Welcoming the news, Councillor Geoff Brown, Cornwall Council's portfolio holder for Transport, and Councillor Mark Coker, Plymouth City Council's cabinet member for strategic transport, said in a joint statement: "The announcement of this first tranche of additional funding for the crossings is very good news and we would like to thank the Government for recognising the seriousness of the financial situation we were facing.

"Following last year's increase in toll charges, we had not expected to have to introduce any further changes until at least 2023. Unfortunately, the first lockdown resulted in a major drop in the levels of traffic at both crossings, whilst services and maintenance continued. With income continuing to be lower than anticipated pre-Covid, the organisation's reserves were depleted and we were facing a growing financial deficit."

Sam Tamlin, Cornwall joint-chair of the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Joint Committee, said: "We will be keeping the situation under constant review and will be using the breathing space provided by the Government funding to look at the future structure of charges and secure the long term future of the crossings"

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The Tamar Bridge toll booths

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Author:AARON GREENAWAY aaron.jamesgreenaway@reachplc.com
Publication:The Plymouth Herald (Plymouth, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 25, 2020
Words:440
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