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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Welsh Assembly set to support Liberal Democrats policy to abolish Severn Bridge tolls

If a year is a long time in politics then two years is an eternity. That is how it seems today as the BBC report that all the Welsh Assembly party groups are set to call for the scrapping of the Severn bridge tolls.

It is nice to see that what started out as a Liberal Democrats policy, as reflected in our 2015 General Election manifesto has now achieved a consensus in the Assembly. It was not always the case.

On 12 November 2014, the Welsh Liberal Democrats group tabled a motion which called for the tolls to be scrapped altogether. Our motion said:

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:

1. Notes the current forecasts that the concession agreement for the Severn Bridges will come to an end in 2018 and that early discussions need to take place as to the future ownership, maintenance and tolling system for the bridges.

2. Believes that the current tolling system is an unfair burden on businesses, commuters and the public.

3. Calls on the Welsh Government to work closely with the UK Government on planning for the future of the bridges.

4. Calls on the UK Government to abolish the tolls on the Severn Bridges once the existing construction and repair costs are paid off.

The reaction of the other parties was predictable. Plaid Cymru, the Tories and Labour all tabled amendments to delete point four and replace it with a watered down commitment.

Today, even the Welsh Government is supporting the abolition of tolls in its own amendment to the motion, an indication perhaps of the influence of Welsh Liberal Democrats Minister, Kirsty Williams.

Where the Liberal Democrats lead, the others follow.
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