BRIDGE TOLLS DEBATE: HARPER CALLS FOR SMART CHARGES – abolition of tolls will increase pollution, congestion and journey times

Speaking ahead of today’s Stage 1 debate on the Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill, Green MSP Robin Harper argued that the proposed abolition of tolls across the Forth Road Bridge will significantly increase pollution, congestion and journey times.

Greens argue that by effectively reducing the cost of commuting by car across the Forth by £200 a year, this move will encourage people to switch from public transport into the private car. Robin Harper has consistently supported calls to replace the current tolls with a system of ‘smart tolls’.

Robin Harper said “Removal of tolls on the Forth Road Bridge will simply pump more traffic into the already congested streets of West Edinburgh. Across the board journey times will get longer, the public transport will get worse (slower buses and a bigger price differential with car journeys) and CO2 emissions will go up by some 9000 tonnes per year. (1)

“Instead of paying the Forth Estuary Transport Authority for the lost revenue on tolls, the Scottish Government should be improving the often very poor and very expensive rail service from Fife to Edinburgh. I predict that in a year’s time, Fife commuters will be spending more of their lives sitting in traffic queues and wishing they could pay a pound to get out of it. What we need is not the abolition of tolls, but smart tolls that vary according to the time of day and occupancy of vehicles.â€?

The Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee reported that there will be an increase of around 10% in journeys across the Forth Road Bridge due to the removal of the tolls. (2)

Current forecasts are for a total of around 9,000 tonnes of additional CO2 pa to be emitted following removal of the tolls. This includes an increase of around 14,000 tonnes of CO2 pa from traffic travelling through/in and around Fife (and around 2,000 tonnes in Dundee), but a reduction of around 11,700 tonnes pa from traffic travelling through Perthshire & Kinross. (1)

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Notes to editors

(1) Committee report on the Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill, para 77,
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/s3/committees/ticc/reports-07/trr07-01-01.htm#CONGESTION

(2) Committee report on the Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill, para 60,
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/s3/committees/ticc/reports-07/trr07-01-01.htm#IOTE