Thursday 16 May 2013

And another thing about that dam...

There’s a good reason why all the mockups and impressions of the proposed Severn Barrage show a road across the top.  Although the scheme’s proponents talk about the barrage itself being entirely privately financed, it is unlikely that the barrage would ever be built without the public sector financing that such a road requires.
In theory, it could be a rail link rather than a road link –  a 21st century alternative to the Severn Tunnel would surely be worth having.  The proposed barrage is really in the wrong place for that though – the alternative (smaller and less environmentally damaging) Shoots Barrage would be much better placed to form part of HS3 – Wales’ link to the European rail network.  So road it would be.
That of course means connecting it to the M4; and I do wonder whether any of the proponents has really looked at a map to consider the implications of a four or six lane highway between Lavernock and the M4.
Assuming that little problem could be overcome, it also raises the question as to how such a road would be funded in practice.  For reasons which escape me, and which seem to defy logic, most, if not all, of our elected politicians seem to be wedded to the idea that road tolls are a very bad idea unless the road crosses a stretch of water, in which case they become a very good idea.  So much so that two parties (Labour and Plaid) are now in favour of using roads-which-cross-water as a source of taxation revenue to fund other projects.
It’s probably reasonable to suppose therefore that any new road crossing would be funded by tolls and that those tolls would have to be set at a higher level than the tolls for the existing crossings – the proposed bridge is, after all, considerably longer than either of the existing crossings and more expensive to build in consequence.
Using the logic applied when the second Severn Crossing was opened, we can’t really have a situation where the crossings are priced differently, since few people would then use the higher-priced crossings.  So I think we can assume that all three crossings would be priced at the new higher level – and that such tolls would continue for the foreseeable future, rather than being reduced (or even abolished) at the end of the current contract period.
So how much of a leap is it really to say that those politicians and others supporting the Hain barrage are, in effect, also supporting not just the retention of Severn tolls but increasing them to a higher level and maintaining them at that level for the indefinite future?

1 comment:

nospin said...

I agree your prediction on tolls and comment that the revenue would get used to fund other things, which of course leaves a problem when maintenance becomes due.

For years WAG rightly called for the abolition of tolls but now they think they might get their grubby hands on the revenue they want them to continue (albeit initially at a lower rate).

When bridges paid for give them back to department of transport, barrage should have rail not road link to avoid the consequences you point out.