Debate Magazine

The Unsurprising Impact of Scrapping Bridge Tolls

Posted on the 07 December 2019 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

From the BBC:
Journeys on the westbound carriageway on the Prince of Wales Bridge have increased by 16% in the year since the tolls were removed.
An average of more than 39,000 journeys are being made each day, up from less than 34,000 per day in 2018 when the £5.60 charge was still in place. Highways England said traffic rose by about 32% on the M48 Bridge, but exact figures were not available.

All those journeys mean more economic activity and so on. Tolls mean income for the bridge owner and and equal and opposite cost to motorists, so that is just a transfer of wealth and cancels out. Tolls also depress economic activity, so scrapping them is a clear win overall. Which is why I don't like tolls.
The bad news is, the value of that extra economic activity in south Wales and Bristol largely goes into higher land values, so the total rent collected i.e. land rent + tolls, stays the same.
This bit is interesting:
In the past two years the eastbound carriageway had seen a daily average of 3,000 more journeys than the westbound carriageway, where the tolls applied.
But after the removals of the tolls, the difference has fallen to about 1,000 journeys more eastbound per day since the tolls were removed, with an average of 40,364 trips from Wales to England in 2019.

How is this sustainable? To get from south Wales to Bristol, you have to take one of the two toll bridges, so the number of journeys each way should be the same.
One possible answer is that 1,000 people emigrate from Wales permanently each day, but that can't be right because Wales would be empty by now.

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