As we approach the start of a new year the end of 2018 brings about significant changes to 2 out of the 23 toll roads within the UK. The Dartford crossing will see a price increase directed at class B vehicles and more significantly the abolishment of the Severn tolls on the M4. The aim of this paper is to illustrate the effect of these changes will have on paying drivers as well as business and commercial fleets that regularly operate along these routes.
The Dartford Crossing is one of the busiest stretches of road in the UK. Not only does it cater for residents in the South-East of England, it’s also a major part of the UK road network that connects Britain to Continental Europe and therefore is vital for businesses and holidaymakers alike.
There is a toll to pay for using the crossing between 6am – 10pm, 7 days a week (including bank holidays) and the amount charged depends on the type of vehicle being driven. Class B vehicles (cars or private light goods) are charged a standard rate of £2.50 per crossing, though those with a pre-paid account are charged a discounted rate. Prior to October 2018 the discounted Class B rate was £1.67, however from 1st October 2018 the class B discounted rate has now increased by 33 pence to £2 per crossing. The increase applies to Class B vehicles only, which includes cars (including trailers), motorhomes and minibuses (with 9 seats or less). Charges for all other vehicle classes have stayed the same.
For a company car driver who regularly makes 10 crossings per week, the increased cost over the year (based on a working 48 weeks) would therefore be £158.40. For a sales-force with 25 vehicles this would equate to £3,960 per annum. The following table sets out the comparative and additional costs for a single class B discounted rate user and then for a sales-force with 25 vehicles at the class B discounted rate, to illustrate the effect of the change.
The 20% rise to the toll follows a review into how fairly the benefits to account holders are spread across different vehicle types. After nine years operating at a 33% discount for cars, the Department for Transport has taken steps to align the Class B rate more closely to Classes C (vehicles with 2 axles) and D (vehicles with more than 2 axles). A spokesman for the Dartford Crossing confirmed, “additional money is going back into funding the crossing. We are making improvements on the M25, which are due to start in the summer and hopes to reduce the demand on the crossing." 
The second change is the abolishment of the tolls on the two Severn bridges that link Wales and England. From 17th December 2018 there will be no charge to cross either of the bridges from England into Wales, a move that has delighted commuters and business owners on both sides of the Severn.
The tolls have been in place on the original Severn crossing since it was first opened by the Queen in 1966 and on the second bridge, built 3 miles downstream across the Severn Estuary, since its opening in 1996. Getting rid of the tolls, labelled a “tax on Wales”, is expected to provide an immediate benefit of more than £100m a year for Wales and more than £1bn of economic benefit over the next decade . Currently the price for a car making the crossing is £5.60, vans are charged £11.20 and the fee is £16.70 for buses & lorries. With approximately 25 million journeys made every year across the two bridges, commuters are therefore expected to be £1,400 per year better off as a result .
The benefits for UK business are also going to be significant. The following table sets out the projected annual savings, based on a 48-week working year, expected for 2 example business fleets regularly crossing the River Severn,
A courier firm, for example, which has 50 vans each making daily crossings 5 days a week would add £134,400 to the bottom line of their operation. While the estimated savings for a haulage firm which operates with 250 HGVs, all averaging 3 crossings per week over the bridge for example, would be more than half a million pounds better off per annum.
Despite these savings, many have concerns that abolishing the tolls will cause greater congestion - especially in and around Newport and Bristol. Figures obtained by a freedom of information request in August, revealed an additional six million cars will cross the Severn every year once the tolls are abolished, meaning an extra 16,000 extra daily journeys , as such businesses and commuters now eagerly await the outcome of the proposed £1.3bn M4 Relief Road public enquiry, a project that was first mooted back in 1991 and is hoped will alleviate growing congestion issues in South Wales.
More information regarding the current charges for all UK toll roads can be found at www.gov.uk/uk-toll-roads.
Thank you for reading, if you need help with managing your tolls or admin fees, please contact us today on 01278 550270!