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Motorists could face Severn tolls in both directions

The costs of building the Second Severn Crossing should be paid off in 2018 Photo: PA

The UK government is considering levying tolls in both directions on the Severn Bridges from 2018, when control of the crossings is due to revert to the Department of Transport. It's expected that the current £6.50 for a car, £13.10 for a van and £19.60 for buses and lorries will be reduced, though initially only by no longer charging VAT. If there were tolls in both directions, a single trip westbound would cost half as much but eastbound journeys would no longer be free. It would counter the perception that the tolls are a charge for entering Wales.

The first motorway bridge had tolls in both directions when it opened in 1966. Cars were charged half-a-crown (12.5p), which was reduced to 12p each way when Britain switched to decimal currency in 1971. There were modest increases after that but much higher tolls in just one direction were introduced ahead of the opening of the Second Severn Crossing in 1996. The idea was to reduce queues if all the toll booths served just one carriageway.

The Department of Transport is now looking at introducing a system already in use on the Dartford Crossing across the Thames. Drivers don't have to stop but must pay either online or at a pay point in a shop by midnight the following day. Number plate recognition technology catches motorists who evade the toll. It's this system that would make it feasible to go back to charging tolls in both directions.