People from Cornwall will march across the Tamar Bridge later this month in protest at paying tolls to cross into Devon.
A growing number of people who live in the south east of the Duchy are making a stand about paying what for many is hundreds of pounds a year to cross.
The Tamar Toll Action Group has joined forces with Cornish campaigning group All Under One Banner (AUOB) Kernow, to organised a “call to action” peaceful protest march across the bridge on Saturday, July 29, which also happens to be the same day as the busy Saltash Regatta on the river below.
Many of those protesting against paying a toll cite it as an unfair tax on residents of South East Cornwall who regularly have to cross the bridge for treatment at Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital or who work on the Devon side of the Tamar.
The protest has been arranged at the same time as a senior Cornwall councillor has called for National Highways to be billed to use the Tamar Bridge.
Andrew Long, the Mebyon Kernow member for Callington and St Dominic, made the call at a recent meeting of the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Joint Committee where he and another Cornwall councillor criticised the “double standards” of the Government on the issue of tolls across the bridge.
He said: “Since the bridge was built, we have been paying tolls which were originally to be used to fund the original building of the structure. In the 1970s the UK government moved the A38 from the Torpoint ferry crossing to the Tamar Bridge but have never paid a penny for the crossing of the bridge, despite the fact that it is owned by Cornwall and Plymouth and not Westminster. This cannot be allowed to continue.
“When the two councils voted to increase charges, a number of us opposed this and one of the reasons was that National Highways, which is run by the government, had not been charged for using our facilities. All local people are charged, why not them?”
Cllr Long added: “It is grossly offensive to suggest we have to ‘provide a fully costed business plan’ to plead for funding to them. That is not just. It’s our bridge, we run it with Plymouth along with the ferry, and the UK government just need to pay their fair toll for using this so it's about time we cut to the chase and billed them for the use.”
For years both councils have been writing to ministers asking for some assistance but until now it’s been rebuffed saying they need to provide a business plan.
In this new move, Cllr Long says that the Government should pay for using the crossing.
He has written to Cornwall Council’s portfolio holder for transport Connor Donnithorne requesting that the matter be pursued.
The toll action group recently discovered that small print in a government act demonstrated that if both Cornwall and Plymouth councils dropped the tolls, Highways England would have to pick up the tab for the upkeep of the bridge.
The original Tamar Bridge Act of 1957 states that if tolls are stopped, the local councils would still be responsible for maintaining the bridge. However, the group says an updated 1979 Act contradicts that.
The group’s vice-chairman Scott Slavin said: “The 1979 Act replaces it with the requirement that if tolls are discontinued the bridge shall become a highway maintainable at public expense. Providing Plymouth City and Cornwall Council are in agreement they can drop the tolls on the bridge at any time and Highways England would have to assume responsibility for its maintenance.”