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Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferries are 'running out of cash'

Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferries are 'running out of cash'

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 6:34am 5th May 2020.

Written by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

Cornwall’s senior councillor for transport has warned that the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry only have reserves to last until the end of July unless the Government steps in to help.

Tolls are currently suspended due to the coronavirus crisis and last week Cornwall Council warned that the services would not be viable unless government funding was made available.

Both the bridge and ferry are operated under a joint arrangement between Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council.

The income from the tolls pays for the maintenance of the bridge and ferry. Earlier this year the councils got permission from the Government to increase toll charges in order to meet the costs of operating the bridge and ferry.

But with tolls not being collected the amount of money available is running short.

Tamar Bridge

Geoff Brown, Cornwall Council Cabinet member for transport, said the Government had rejected an initial call for help.

He said: “I was disappointed that the Government rejected our case for extra funding for the Tamar Bridge and the Torpoint Ferry but we have not given up.

“In response to lockdown and to protect staff we decided to cease toll collections in the short term, both on the bridge and the ferry. We believe these are both key routes for workers and the blue light services the crossings must remain in operation.

“But, as the lockdown  continues, the costs of operation are eating into the reserves of the joint facility and these reserves are estimated to run out in early July. Hence we wrote to the secretary of state, Grant Shapps, to seek government support for the crossings in the short term. Regrettably our request was lumped in with a number of other toll crossings and congestion charge requests from Durham and London and all were rejected for additional support in a letter from the maritime minister, Kelly Tolhurst.

“We have sent a second letter to the secretary of state, the maritime minister and all our local MPs from Cornwall and Plymouth explaining the problem in detail, outlining the fact that currently Highways England do not, and never have, paid anything towards the costs of running the A38 across the bridge and asking for our request to be reconsidered, given the unique position of the crossings.

“The request has come jointly from the joint chairs of the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry committee, and Mark Coker and myself as Cabinet members for transport in Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council. I would like to thank the committee joint chairs and senior officers for the many hours spent in drafting the follow up letter.

“We intend to await a response before considering what further action to take.”

torpoint ferries

Sheryll Murray, MP for South East Cornwall, has supported the calls for more government support.

In a statement her office said: “Sheryll has already contacted the secretary of state, Grant Shapps, and has asked for a meeting with Kelly Tolhurst, MP, who is the Parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Transport, with responsibility for maritime which includes ferries.

"We are aware that there are a number of ferries around the Duchy of various sizes. Sheryll, when she worked in Plymouth as a young person, used to cross the Tamar every day as part of her commute and is very aware of the importance of these crossings and is keen that a solution is found.”

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