Cabinet decision to secure future funding of Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry

Future funding of the Tamar Bridge and the Torpoint Ferry was discussed at today’s Cabinet meeting.

Toll prices on the bridge and the ferry, which are jointly owned by Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council, have not risen since 2010.  Under the terms of the Tamar Bridge Act, any changes must be approved by the Secretary of State for Transport before they can be implemented.

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Members heard how the money generated by tolls is used to operate, maintain and improve the two crossings and subsidise the cost of the Torpoint Ferry service, which is vital to the economy of south east Cornwall.

Cabinet agreed unanimously to apply with joint owners Plymouth City Council to the Department for Transport to:

  • increase the current tolls by 33% to ensure the sustainability of the crossings
  • review toll charges annually in line with inflation, to assure the future finances; and 
  • seek funding from the Department for Transport towards future maintenance and upkeep of the bridge, in recognition of its strategic importance to the UK economy,  and to reduce the burden on users.

Geoff Brown, Cornwall Council’s Cabinet portfolio holder for transport, explained that the bridge and ferry are currently running at a loss.  He explained that  increased tolls were needed to keep maintenance and running costs covered as ongoing regular maintenance of the crossings is essential to keep users safe.

The proposals include retaining the 50% discount for those who use the electronic pre-paid TamarTag.  Those users will see the car toll rise from 75p to £1.00 for a crossing – 60% of crossings are pre-paid. The toll will rise from £1.50 to £2 for a cash crossing.

Councillor Brown told the meeting that this is the first price rise since 2010, and takes into account inflation since then, and forecast costs for the next few years.

He also reassured members that the Council is working with Plymouth City Council to ask for changes to legislation to allow smaller, inflation-linked price rises in the future.

He said:  "The bridge and ferry are currently running in deficit with expenditure exceeding income and that position is forecast to continue into the future.

"So, following public consultation, the Joint Committee has proposed that tolls be increased by 33% from July 2019 to ensure that we can continue to deliver safe, reliable and efficient crossings of the Tamar and still remain self-funding."

Several councillors raised concerns over the plans, including fears of the effect the increase will have on those who travel from Cornwall into Plymouth each day for work.

Councillor Brown responded that the Torpoint Ferry remains one of the cheapest ferry crossings in the UK.  He said that without the increase, the council and its partner, Plymouth City Council, would be unable to keep maintaining the bridge and ferries, which must be the main priority.

The plans were supported unanimously by Cabinet and will now go to full Council.


Story posted 18 December 2018