The Department for Transport (“DFT”) today announced that it had approved the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust’s application for an increase in the cash toll from 50 pence to £1. This follows a public inquiry in May 2013. The new toll will be introduced on Thursday 24 April.
Trust Chairman Chris Booy said today “The higher toll will enable the Trust to continue its £9 million 10-year vital repair and maintenance programme which aims to secure the bridge’s long-term future as a key traffic route, one of Bristol’s major tourist destinations and the icon of the city”. He continued “It is astonishing to think a structure designed in the era of the horse and cart now carries 3 million vehicle each year – this is both a credit to Brunel and to the care which has been taken over many generations to look after it”.
Although the cash toll will rise to £1 the Trust is keen to stress that no regular user will need to pay this level of charge. Clerk to the Trustees Tim Baines states “the reason the cash toll is doubling is so that we can increase significantly the discount given to our regular users, as demonstrated by their buying a pre-payment card. Whilst we don’t think a £1 toll is too expensive to preserve a piece of engineering history when for example it costs £3.50 to park for 2 hours on Park Street we do accept our responsibilities to our most regular users. Card prices for our most regular users will go up by less than inflation and they will still be able to cross for 35 pence”
The proposed costs per crossing for Bridge Cards are as follows:
- £50 will buy 100 crossings at 50 pence per crossing;
- £170 will buy 400 crossings at 42.5 pence per crossing;
- £350 buys 1,000 crossings at 35 pence per crossing.
In September 2009 a “convenience” 50-crossing card was introduced, without any discount. Now the Trust intend to introduce a discount on this card as well, offering 50 crossings for £30.
For drivers who have crossings remaining on existing Bridge Cards when the toll increase comes into effect, the charge for these crossings will remain at that which applied at the time when the crossings were purchased. The cost of Bridge Cards has not risen since January 2009, and the Trust also expect to keep any future increases in the cost of Bridge Cards broadly in line with inflation.
A review of the finances of the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust reveals that it costs £1 million a year to run it – around two-thirds of its total income – and that excludes the £9 million cost of important maintenance projects planned to take place over the next ten years. More than half that amount – £5.6 million – has been earmarked for essential works in the next five years. The work is necessary to extend the life of the bridge and prevent deterioration.
The charitable trust receives no outside help towards its maintenance costs, either from central or local Government. The Trust also stressed that the increased income is not required to fund the proposed new Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre announced last year. Mr Baines said: “The Trust has for ten years ring-fenced a £600k reserve towards the cost of the new facility for visitors. This, together with a £590k grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund will allow the Bridge to finally have a visitor centre commensurate with its status. The new centre is due to open on 8 December 2014, the 150th anniversary of its original opening on 8 December 1864”.