Wednesday, January 04, 2012

for whom the bridge tolls

Another year, another increase in the bridge tolls for the Severn bridges, to predictable outrage. I mean, I'm not crazy about it, particularly the 30p increase (a whopping five and a bit percent) after a couple of 10p ones, but what can you do?

What you can do, if you wish, is try and research the history of the toll charges for the bridges since the old one was opened in 1966, at which time you would have pulled up in your Model T jalopy or your Austin Seven and the cheery toll attendant would have taken half a crown off you before sending you on your way with a cheery "mind how you go, squire" and a robust clip round the ear.

The progression of charges post-1992 (and incorporating the addition of the second bridge in 1997) is listed here, but pre-1992 you have to dig around a bit. I eventually found this old Hansard extract which reveals that there weren't that many changes made between 1966 and 1992, the main highlights being:
  • a post-decimalisation knocking off of the spare ha'penny in 1973 (two-and-six being 12½ of those nasty newfangled new pence);
  • an increase to 20p in 1979;
  • various up-and-down-ness in the mid-1980s as an increase to 50p was first reversed after some legal challenges and then reinstated to 50p later, presumably partly to pay all the accumulated lawyers' bills;
  • up again to one whole pound in 1990.
The seemingly vicious price hike to £2.80 in 1992 is partially explained by the rearrangement of the toll system so that you only paid in one direction (going into Wales), and presumably also by the need to drum up some revenue to pay for the new bridge. Increases have been steady since, the total increase of £3.20 between 1992 and 2012 averaging out at 16 pence per year. Here's the whole story in funky graphical form.

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