Monday, January 31, 2011

Haulage Contractors Say Freight Blighted By Tunnel And Bridge Increases

Rising Tolls Across the Country Add to Fuel Price Woes
Shipping News Feature

UK – Hauliers across the country feel they are being made to pay unfairly as the Government’s policies start to filter down. We have already witnessed rising resentment to the rises in fuel duty and the growing popularity of the FairFuel UK campaign which aims to stop the next round of increases due in April.

Now Midland Expressway Limited (MEL), who manage the toll stretch of the M6 have announced new toll prices which will apply from 06:00am on Tuesday 1st March 2011. A £0.60p increase will apply to Class 3, 4, and 5 vehicles, including cars with trailers and vans as well as HGV’s. Between Monday and Friday, from 6am till 11pm, a car with a trailer will pay £9.60, vans will pay £10.60, and HGVs will pay £10.60 whilst even at its lowest level ‘out of hours’ trucks will still have to fork out £8.60. The full spectrum of charges can be seen HERE.

Many freight delivery drivers who could use the route very rarely do, the extra cost not justifying the time saved, although this can at times be considerable. One of the problems drivers we spoke to commented on was that the ‘Congestion Ahead’ signs on the main M6 seemed to be permanently illuminated, even when the road was clear, to the point that they were ignored by most truckers.

The chargeable stretch of road lasts for 27 miles between junctions 3A and 11A and was designed to cope with 100,000 vehicles a day but often sees less than half that. The Dartford river crossings conversely regularly see 150,000 vehicles per day but they too will impose increased toll charges by 2012 ‘subject to consultation’. For the Dartford tunnels and Queen Elizabeth II Bridge there is no bypass and, unlike the M6 toll, they are the only economic route for traffic wishing to use the M25.

Roads minister Mike Penning has told local MP’s that crossing barriers will be lifted when there is severe congestion stating that he considered reduction of congestion at the infamous bottleneck a priority. Drivers we spoke to who travel the route regularly scorned the idea saying there had been promises made since the first tunnel was opened in 1963, including free passage, none of which had been kept. They all praised the fact that transit through the barriers between the hours of 10pm and 6am was free of charge.

Truck drivers we spoke to who regularly use the Severn Bridge again slated the level of charges imposed saying it impacts unfairly on freight traffic between Wales and England. Severn Bridge tolls from the 1st January range from £5.70 for a car (up from £5.50) to Category III, Heavy Goods vehicles £17.20 (up from £16.40). Severn River Crossing’s general manager Jim Clune commented:

“Severn River Crossing amends the tolls at the start of each year in strict compliance with the Severn Bridges Act 1992.The new toll levels are confirmed each year by a Parliamentary Order made in December which authorises us to adjust tolls to the revised levels.”

Photo:- The Severn Bridge courtesy of Arpingstone