For the first time in 52 years, driving over the Severn crossings into south Wales costs nothing.
The tolls for both crossings over the river Severn have been scrapped in a move that could save commuters up to £1,400 a year. The two bridges, which link southwest England and Wales, see around 25 million journeys a year.
The fee had been £5.60 for a car and £16.70 for lorries, and had actually been reduced at the start of 2018. The toll only applied in one direction – when entering Wales – and the decision to scrap it was taken when the bridges came back into public ownership last year.
The toll removal is widely thought of as a good thing, particularly by local businesses who’d considered it a “tax” on entering Wales.
However, there are concerns congestion could worsen around the Brynglas Tunnel near Newport, with a potential increase of 6 million vehicles per year crossing into Wales.
People have actually had to pay to cross the Severn Estuary since Roman times, and a 12th Century document outlines a paid crossing by ferry.
Historian and curator of Chepstow Museum, Anne Rainsbury, said: “Monday will be a very historic day. It'll be the first time you can cross the Severn Estuary for free.”
When the first bridge opened in 1966, car drivers paid two shillings and sixpence each way to cross. But today, Monday 14 December, the first lorry crossed the M4 Prince of Wales bridge toll-free just after 6:30am.
Work has started on demolishing toll booths on the Prince of Wales bridge, and currently three lanes are open with a 50mph speed restriction.
The original Severn crossing on the M48 is closed until Wednesday at 7am while the toll booths are taken down.
In 2019, further work will be carried out to change both the M48 and M4 back to three-lane motorways with a standard 70mph speed limit.