Forty-four years after it first opened, the Cleddau Bridge in Pembrokeshire is permanently free of tolls.
The last vehicle to pay a fee to cross the Cleddau river drove through the toll booths on Thursday afternoon (28th March).
The occasion was hailed as “historic” by Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet Member for Economy, Paul Miller.
“This is undoubtedly a good day for our County” said Councillor Miller.
“I have said many times that the bridge tolls have been an unwelcome barrier to trade across the haven waterway. Removing this impediment represents a really positive development for the people of Pembrokeshire.
“From now on individuals who need to cross the bridge everyday will save at least £6 a week on their crossings. That could easily add up to an extra £270 a year in local people’s pockets.
“On top of that, the revenue lost to the Council will be replaced by a £3 million a year grant from the Welsh Government.”
The Welsh Government announced in 2017 that it would be scrapping tolls.
Under the agreement with the County Council, Welsh Government will pay the Authority £3 million a year for the next 20 years to cover the loss in revenue plus a one-off payment to cover the removal of the toll booth infrastructure and staff redundancy costs.
Economy and Transport Secretary, Ken Skates said:
“I am pleased the Welsh Government can abolish the tolls on the Cleddau Bridge.
“Their removal will help to accelerate local economic growth, connect businesses and communities and make it easier and cheaper for people to travel to access quality employment opportunities.
“Our offer of £3 million a year will support Pembrokeshire Council against the loss of revenue from the bridge tolls and provide an additional one-off payment to cover costs and toll infrastructure removal.
“I would like to thank them for their public service and wish them every success in the future.”
Of the staff employed full-time at the bridge, four have been redeployed within the Council; eight opted for redundancy rather than redeployment while the remainder have ongoing posts as bridge inspectors.
Councillor Miller paid tribute to the toll collection staff for their years of service.
“I would like to thank them for their patience through what has been a difficult and trying time and I wish them the very best for the future.”
The Council has also made arrangements for bridge users with unused books of tickets to claim refunds.
“I am delighted that we have been able to do this” said Councillor Miller. “It was important to ensure no-one lost out financially from having bought tickets in advance. Everyone who has done so will be refunded.”
The Council has started to consider arrangements for the permanent removal of the canopy and booths. The aim is to have the former plaza area fully reconfigured by the end of August.