Agenda item

Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Future Financing


Councillor Jonathan Drean, Cabinet Member for Transport introduced the report to members and highlighted the following key points:



On 13 January 2022, the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Joint Committee launched a consultation on proposals to address the financial shortfalls impacted by COVID-19 and the on-going reduced traffic levels for the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry’s; 



The Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry’s carry 18 million vehicles a year, 16 million on the bridge at 40,000 a day and 2 million on the ferries which equated to 5,500 per day. Both gateways were strategic to the economies in the region;



Tamar Crossings receive no subsidies from Government nor from the two owners of the crossings, Plymouth City Council and Cornwall County Council. Tolling income was used to operate, maintain and improve the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferries from the 1957 Crossings Act;



Before the Coronavirus pandemic, tolls had not been expected to increase before 2023. This however, had been impacted by a reduction in traffic crossings and would be expected to remain for some years. A proposal to increase tolling in Autumn 2021 had been deferred in December 2020 following financial COVID support from government, this support had ended;



The Tamar Crossings reserves had been forecasted to be completely depleted in 2022 and Tamar Crossings had been facing an increased deficit unless there would be an intervention to increase the tolling. The forecasted figures indicated an annual funding gap of £3.2 million by March 2024. The Joint Committee had reviewed all areas of spending which had included; staffing, reduced service levels and a range of other options to address the financial shortfall;



Joint Chairs had written to government requesting National Highways, formally Highways England contribute to the cost of maintaining the bridge. The Minister did not support this request and there had been no prospect of further support from government, however the Joint Committee and two Councils would continue to lobby government for support. 



After considering a number of proposals including a 35% increase for all users, the Joint Committee was consulting on a 30% increase on both cash and tag tolls for users and all classes of vehicles.

The toll income had been used to operate, maintain and improve the crossings. Tamar Crossings employed 100 staff to deliver the service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Despite the pandemic, Tamar Crossings had continued to deliver the service to users. Over the past few years, significant work had been carried out on the bridge and ferries and in total the bridge had injected £17 million for works and the introduction of contactless methods of payment for tolling.



It was highlighted that any deficit in the budget would be need to be fulfilled by Plymouth City Council and Cornwall County Council.



Members discussed:


Councillors would continue efforts to lobby government for fair financial support for the important strategic gateway between Cornwall and Devon. 



Members would set up a petition for users of the bridge as well as residents of Devon and Cornwall to sign and once 100,000 have signed this would trigger a formal ministerial response.


Cabinet agreed to:-



TBTFJC’s preferred option for toll revision of uniform 30% toll increases on both Tag and cash tolls for all user classes be approved. Such approval to be subject to the Joint Committee making a decision whether or not to implement the preferred option following consideration of the public consultation responses. The Joint Committee being given the authority to make the implementation decision;



That Plymouth City Council, through the Portfolio Holders and Joint Chairs of the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Joint Committee, continue to lobby Government and support a User’s Campaign for a fair contribution towards maintaining the A38 across the Tamar Bridge to reduce the burden on the user



Supporting documents: