THE CAMPAIGN to see the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry tolls abolished is heating up as a local councillor calls to charge National Highways for use of the bridge.
The proposal to bill the Government for use of the bridge connecting Devon and Cornwall was called for by Callington and Cornwall councillor, Andrew Long at last week’s Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Committee meeting.
He said: ‘I can’t use the bridge without paying a toll, but National Highways use the bridge and don’t pay a single penny.
‘It’s an insult to local people.’
Cllr Long wishes to see the highways authority cough up for use of the bridge which the major A38 road runs across, in hopes to reduce the toll charge.
This comes as campaigners are gearing up for a protest march later next month.
Cllr Long called for the charging after National Highways asked the committee to provide a business plan on how the bridge and ferry can be funded.
In response to this Cllr Long said: ‘Why should we do a business plan for National Highways to give us money that they owe us?!’
Cllr Long raised the issue that the A38 runs across the bridge but the Government authority pay no contribution towards the maintenance of the bridge.
‘Elsewhere they do’, he said.‘They paid Transport for London £1.3bn last year towards the maintenance of the roads. But they won’t give us any money.
‘They should pay their share in using our bridge. It’s not their bridge, it’s ours.
The Tamar Bridge is owned by both Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council.
‘It was built before the A38 was there,’ said Andrew.
‘They should be paying for it, so maybe we should give them a bill.’
Cornwall and parish councillor, Dorothy Kirk keen advocate for abolishment of the tolls supports Cllr Long’s proposal.
Cllr Kirk said: ‘It would be entirely reasonable to expect that the bridge that links Devon and Cornwall be paid for from the public purse, just as any other road that links Devon and Cornwall.
‘The whole question of the Tamar crossings has to be addressed and we have to have some sort of fairness. We’re being discriminated against.’
This proposal comes as the Tamar Toll Action Group’s (TTAG) ‘Call to Action’ peaceful protest is due to take place next month on Saturday, July 29.
Scott Slavin, vice chair of TTAG said: ‘We do believe and agree with Cllr Long that National Highways should be funding operation and maintenance of the Tamar Bridge.
‘A Freedom of Information request in November 2020 showed that they currently maintain over 9300 road bridges.
‘The Tamar Bridge was built and has been maintained at local cost without charge to National Highways for over 63 years. This despite them rerouting a major trunk road over it, prior to the bridge opening the A38 was routed via Torpoint over the ferry.’
Scott also explained that at the committee meeting, the TTAG raised a question in regard to tolls being able to be dropped provided that the two authorities (Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council) agree which is mentioned in Section 28 of The Tamar Bridge Act 1979 – the act that set the funding rules for the crossings that states that the bridge must be financially supported by tolls.
Scott said: ‘They confirmed that this part of the legislation remains current and that if the two authorities agreed to stop taking tolls on the bridge, it would become publicly funded by National Highways under the Highways Act 1980.’
Scott highlighted that this piece of legislation only applies to the bridge and that more clarity would be required as to how this would then impact the ferry service.
Councillor Long confirmed that he will be raising the issue of billing National Highways at next month’s protest march and will also be bringing it to the next full council.