Tolls on the Severn Bridge are set to be axed earlier than previously expected.
Charges on the bridge, which serves as the main road between England and southern Wales, were initially set to be axed on New Year’s Eve, however, Wales Secretary Alun Cairns has announced they are set to end on the 17th of December instead.
The announcement was made during the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham yesterday.
Speaking about the decision Cairns stated: ‘The principle of paying to come into Wales is something that has irritated us for 50 years’.
The toll, currently costing £5.60 for cars, has been in place since the bridge opened in 1966.
Wales’ First Minister initially called for the toll to be scrapped when the bridge came under public ownership on January 1st 2018, however, the government have continued collecting tolls to pay for the cost of phasing them out.
The toll had previously been justified as paying towards the £15 million annual maintenance of the bridge.
The Welsh government have estimated that the abolition of the toll will see greater traffic flow into Wales, which could be worth up to £100 million a year for the local economy.
Those who made daily crossings on the bridge will be set to save up to £1400 a year once the toll has been removed.
Alun Cairns is also hopeful that the removal of the tolls will foster greater connectivity between the region on both sides of the river Severn.
However, Plaid Cymru MP Jonathon Edwards has previously accused Mr Cairns of having a disdain for Wales in trying to foster greater links with south-west England, suggesting that his wish for a western powerhouse undermines Wales.
There have also been concerns that removing the toll will increase congestion in the area, however, the potential regional economic benefit is expected to outweigh this concern.
The scrapping of the tolls has additionally put 115 toll booth and maintenance jobs at risk, however, a 60-strong maintenance team is expected to continue.