11th June 2018
By Richard Whitehouse
The cost of driving over the Tamar Bridge from Cornwall into Devon could go up from £1.50 to £2, if councillors agree to start a public consultation process when they meet on Friday (June 15.)
At the same time councillors will hear of the need to spend an extra £1.5 million for “critical” maintenance, after asbestos was discovered.
Work was stopped on the suspension system when the harmful material was discovered in March.
A report going to the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry joint committee says the tolls need to rise by 33 per cent to cover costs.
The toll price hike is said to be needed to cover extra capital costs, lower income and more maintenance being needed.
If approved the increase could come into force in July 2019. Any increase would have to be subject to public consultation.
The report says the last increase in toll charges was in March 2010 and said that the RPI (Retail Price Index) has increased by 26.7 per cent since then and “is likely” to have risen by at least 30 per cent by the time the toll rise could come in.
Budgets for the coming years had been considered by the committee and also Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council earlier this year, but the report states that since then things had changed.
It says: “Since approval of those budgets, additional capital costs are now anticipated and outturn figures suggest lower income levels due to reduced traffic and increased revenue maintenance expenditure. These pressures have a negative impact on financial models.”
Among the extra capital costs are the need to resurface the bridge, upgrade bridge parapet railings, phase two of the bridge recoating, ferry traffic control modernisation and additional money for suspension system works.
The report states: “The revised financial model indicates that an increase in revenue equating to 33% is required to provide sufficient income for several years, based on current revenue and capital estimates. This is equivalent to a cash toll for cars and vans of £2.00, with tolls for other classes of vehicles also increasing pro rata.”
As part of the consultation a leaflet will be produced explaining the proposed increase and why it is needed. There will also be a questionnaire for people to complete.
Meanwhile the asbestos report tells councillors of a seven week delay to works while the area was made safe and specialists brought in.
The works being undertaken are to replace the bolts in the Tamar Bridge suspension system.
In March the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry joint committee was told that asbestos related material had been unexpectedly discovered.
A report going to this week’s committee meeting states: “Work was suspended while laboratory tests on the material were undertaken. The test results confirmed that the material was an asbestos containing material (ACM) and, as required under current legislation, the Health and Safety Executive were notified.
“The ACM was found in the joints between the two halves of each cable band that clamps around the main cable and supports each vertical hanger cable. Although the exact reasons for using the ACM at the time of construction of the bridge between 1959 and 1961 are unknown and unrecorded in any known historical record, it is presumed to have been considered a cheap and readily available packing material to take up any irregularities in the castings of the cable bands prior to the application of joint sealant.”
The report said that the delay caused through the work being halted and the cost of implementing safety measures had all added to the overall costs of the work. As a result the final bill has risen from an initial £6m to £7.5m.
To allow for the delays the contractor has moved to 24-hour working to get the job done. Subject to weather conditions, it is hoped that the works will now be complete by October.
The extra funding, which will have to be approved by the Cabinets and full councils of Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council, would be provided through borrowing over 25 years.
The report to the committee states that if the funding is not approved then the works would have to be terminated.
It adds: “The works are critical to ensure the resilience of the suspension system and significant costs have already been incurred developing access arrangements and working methods. The works will need to be completed in the near future. Significant abortive costs would be associated with such termination.”
This article has been supplied to Cornwall Reports by the BBC Local Democracy Service