Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry tolls may rise by 13 per cent
TAMAR bridge and ferry tolls could go up by 13 per cent in April next year.
And regular users could be hit with a monthly charge for the pre-paid tag.
If the increase is imposed directly it could mean that car drivers face having to pay another 20p for crossing the river into Plymouth.
At present local people can use a pre-paid electronic tag that cuts their costs in half.
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The existing toll is £1.50, or 75p for people with a Tamar Tag.
The operator can abolish or reduce these concessions but requires parliamentary approval to raise the basic toll.
The Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry are operated and maintained jointly by Plymouth City Council and Cornwall Council.
Plymouth's Cabinet yesterday approved the operator's budget and business plan.
The bridge and ferry have reserves of about £3million, but falling traffic levels and increasing costs mean these could fall to £2million by the end of the next financial year and to £800,000 by the end of 2014/15.
This is based on the assumption that traffic levels will remain flat. Industry and government forecasts suggest annual growth of around one per cent a year.
A report to the Cabinet said these estimates were unreliable for local use based on recent experience.
The joint committee which oversees the operation will now consider the best way to raise the money to boost the reserves.
Saltash town councillor Joe Ellison said he was resigned to the increase.
He said he understood that proposals to charge for the tag were aimed at occasional users and would affect regular commuters relatively lightly.
But he called for moves to cut the cross-subsidy from the bridge to the ferry.
"The bridge subsidises the ferry by a vast amount and it's time to start making a differential," Mr Ellison said.
He added that the composition of the committee would need to change first. At present two of its Cornish members are from Saltash and three from Torpoint and Rame.
The tolls were hiked by 50 per cent in March 2010, sparking widespread protests by users.
Opponents then predicted that people would find alternatives to using their cars and that income would fall.
The need for more cash is driven partly by maintenance and improvement work that is required.
The report to the Cabinet said that additional work was going on to optimise options for replacing the bridge protective coating.
A feasibility study will review the need to replace administration and control facilities on the Tamar Bridge site.
Proposals will be presented to Cabinet before decisions are finalised on these issues.
The report approved by councillors yesterday said: "Cabinet should note that the forecast capital and revenue budgets will require an increase in toll income of approximately 13 per cent from April 2014.
"This will ensure that risks are mitigated and that the cost of the operation does not fall upon the parent authorities' budgets."