George Osborne's promise of a cut in the tolls on the Severn Bridges suggests that if he stays in office after the election he'll deny the Welsh Government control of the crossings when they return to public ownership. First Minister Carwyn Jones has said that if he had the power, he would reduce but not abolish the tolls, using the income to pay for M4 improvements as wells as maintaining the two bridges.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said:
"We do not control the tolls - the UK Government do. That's why we have called on the UK Government to open discussions with us on the arrangements governing the Severn Crossings after 2018."
Plaid Cymru has accused the Welsh Government of failing to apply pressure to try to stop the Severn toll prices rising. The party has found, via a Freedom of Information request, that there has been no correspondence on the subject between Cardiff Bay and Westminster since May 2011.
Plaid leader Leanne Wood says the toll rises are 'hurting Welsh businesses'. She has also called for 'evidence of discussions taking place' over who will take control of the bridges once they pass into public ownership around 2017.
Toll charges for the Severn Bridges rise tomorrow - by up to 3.3% - which is above inflation.
- Category I - cars and motor caravans - rises from £6.00 to £6.20 (3.3%)
- Category II - small goods vehicles and small buses - rises from £12.10 to 12.40 (2.5%)
- Category III - heavy goods vehicles and buses - rises from £18.10 to £18.60 (2.8%)
The organiser for the campaign group against Severn bridge tolls is warning that unless urgent action is taken to stop the UK government from increasing the toll charges every year, motorists could end up paying £10 to cross the bridges into Wales.
Councillor John Warman says road users face a "bleak year" and will now have to pay £6.20 as the rate of inflation rises to 3.3 per cent. The campaigner says the rise would have a "devastating effect on the economy in Wales and stunt growth".
Cllr Warman is calling on the Welsh Secretary David Jones to justify the hike in tolls to the people of Wales as he claims the cost of building the bridges has already been paid off.
Campaign Against Severn Bridge Tolls says it will be stepping up its campaign in the new year.
A planned 24-hour strike by toll booth staff at both Severn Bridges this weekend has been suspended. The Unite union says it's taken the decision after a meeting with Severn River Crossing management today.
Unite Union say that they are confident and close to reaching an agreement with Severn River Crossings.
After the talks this week, Unite have suspended industrial action that was due to be held on the 21st August.
Talks will continue Monday and the union are confident of reaching an agreement over new work patterns.
A spokesperson for the union says Severn River Crossings have withdrawn the proposed new shift patterns and Unite are confident they'll accept a proposal broadly based in line with their ideas.
Drivers using the Severn bridges are being warned by unions that they could face severe disruption from next week as toll booth workers threaten to go on strike.
An overtime ban and work-to-rule is due to start at six o clock next Tuesday morning. Strike action is being threatened next Friday 24th August, the start of the Bank Holiday weekend.
But both sides are hoping that fresh talks tomorrow could result in a settlement in the dispute over new shift patterns. Esyllt Carr reports.