In what represents a significant shift the governing board of the Tamar Crossings has unanimously agreed to ‘meaningfully explore the possibility of toll abolition’.

This decision by the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Joint Committee, sees councillors from the two parent authorities united behind a move to seek central funding for the crossings which are presently paid for via a ‘user pays’ principle.

It has disappointed the proposer of the motion, Cllr for Lostwithiel and Lanreath Colin Martin, who says the wording is half-hearted and not the firm commitment he was seeking.

His original motion, deferred from Cornwall Council in November 2023 to the Joint Committee, called for the Cornwall Council to campaign for Government to provide central funding so the tolls can be abolished.

He said, “If I told my child that I will ‘meaningfully explore the possibility’ of taking them to McDonalds, would you think I was serious about that outcome, or simply trying to keep them quiet?”

Cornwall’s Transport Portfolio holder Cllr Richard Williams-Pears however was celebrating on social media saying he was delighted to propose the motion to the committee.

In the meeting he said, “This recommendation for the first time states, as a matter of voted upon policy, that the Tamar Bridge Joint Committee is working towards toll abolition - that the joint committee and the parent authorities continue to work with government to secure funding for the crossings and to meaningfully explore toll abolition. That sends a very strong message.”

His comments represent a change to his attitude when the motion was first taken to Cornwall Council where the chamber was told that meetings with local MPs had taken place without any indication that financial support will be forthcoming.

The last request by the joint authorities and portfolio holders to government, in August 2021, for support with funding for the Tamar Bridge was rejected by Baroness Vere then Minister for Roads, Buses and Places.

Councillor for Callington and St Dominic Andrew Long said at the meeting, “It is central government that has failed to treat the Tamar bridge and Torpoint ferry and our two authorities with any degree of equality or equity with the rest of the UK. Over 100,000 people who live in SE Cornwall have no choice but to use the bridge. It’s a necessity. We’re being charged to use a necessity.”

Cllr Mark Coker from Plymouth City Council, “I do support wholeheartedly us all increasing the pressure and, with a general election on the way and seats vulnerable within this region, I believe we have an opportunity that we haven’t had for a long time to raise the agenda and get the full support of the sitting MPs or prospective MPs because that will make a tremendous difference to pressure that we can put on whichever government is in power after the next general election.”

Mel Priston, Chair of Saltash-based TTAG, who are campaigning for a toll-free Tamar was delighted that all councillors in attendance were in favour of the abolition of tolls. “The passion shown by the councillors in supporting the motion was clear to see, and it is a large step in the right direction with many referencing the inequity in infrastructure funding for the Southwest compared to other regions of the UK. TTAG is pleased to be included in the forthcoming stakeholder discussions to take this forward.”

The tolls were also raised in Prime Minister’s Questions with SE Cornwall MP Sheryll Murray asking Rishi Sunak for ‘our part of the country to be made more competitive’ by losing what she calls the ‘extra tax’ the tolls represents.

The PM bypassed the question concentrating instead on the imminent toll revision which will go to the Secretary of State for Transport for approval to increase the tolls as previously reported. Both parent authorities recently voted to apply to the Government to increase toll prices for both cash and tag prices.