Welsh Government won't scrap tolls for the Severn Crossing

The Welsh Government will not scrap the Severn Crossing tolls, despite conceding that there is a need to minimise the impact it has on Welsh businesses.

First Minister Carwyn Jones revealed yesterday (22 November) that tolls would remain in place if the Welsh Government gained control of the crossing in 2018. This is the point where the contract with the private company that runs the bridges ends and ownership would revert to the UK government and National Assembley for Wales.

Jones plans to use the toll money for other improvements along the M4 in South Wales. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has already called for, at the very least, a reduction in the tolls to help keep struggling hauliers on the road.

Ian Gallagher, FTA (FTA) policy manager for Wales, said: “Our members and commuters who have no realistic choice but to use the bridge will not be happy that they will be paying a charge on a piece of infrastructure which has already been paid for.

"Even if money is hypothecated for improvements around Newport it would be unfair that users should not be expected to pick up the bill,” he said.

This week Conservative MP Stephen Hammond revealed that charges are likely to increase by 2.8%, from £18.10 to £18.60 for LGVs, as of 1 January 2013.

Earlier this month, Jones conceded that the both the Welsh and UK governments needed to think about best way to ensure that the crossings “maximise the economic benefit to Wales and the UK”.

Gallagher said: “It is imperative that government do not view the bridges as a ‘cash cow’ but works with user groups to facilitate a fair system which does not ultimately penalise users and provides the stimulation which South Wales so desperately needs.”

O-licence curtailed following double wheel loss incident

North Eastern deputy traffic commissioner Elizabeth Perrett has severely curtailed the O-licence of rail maintenance firm Trackwork, due to its failure to review maintenance procedures after a wheel loss incident.

After a public inquiry, the deputy TC cut the firm's authorisation from 25 vehicles and 25 trailers to 13 vehicles and 13 trailers indefinitely.

She told the directors that the loss of two wheels from one of its trucks on the M18 motorway in April 2012 should have been a “catalyst” for a root and branch review of its vehicle maintenance procedures.

She also concluded that the repute of the company’s transport manager, James Bowes, had been severely tarnished by the failings.

Perrett was told about a Vosa investigation into Trackwork, carried out following the incident. It found that the company’s vehicle had been given a safety inspection the day before the wheel loss, and that two tyres had been replaced.

The Vosa examiner inspected the paperwork produced by Trackwork and reported that the relevant procedures and standards had been followed before the incident.

He also identified no mechanical defects in relation to the wheel losses.

Shortcomings

However, the examiner conducted a further inspection of the operator’s remaining records and identified shortcomings in its maintenance procedures.

Some vehicles, the inspector reported, had missed routine safety inspections by two weeks, while paperwork relating to those inspections was incomplete.

He also noted that daily vehicle defect reports completed by drivers did not confirm whether the necessary repairs had been made.

The deputy TC was also told about prohibitions issued to the company’s vehicles, several of which related to brakes.

After hearing from Trackwork representatives at the PI, Perrett concluded that there had previously been no “management commitment” to ensure that all the maintenance systems were effective.

The deputy TC noted the firm's failure to take action as a result of the wheel loss incident and the examiner’s visit and added: "There is no getting away from the fact that a nil daily driver system has only just been introduced.

“It is only recently that the transport manager has begun checking all safety inspection records."

Outcome

Trackwork gave two undertakings relating to its licence: that it would have an external audit of its maintenance procedures carried out by the end of May 2013 and that its drivers’ records will be analysed independently.

The Deputy TC also gave Trackwork a formal warning and told the directors that any future problems could lead to more serious regulatory action.