Liberal Democrats on Cornwall Council are fighting to prevent another toll increase at the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry.
Toll collections were suspended during the COVID lockdown for the safety of staff and travellers, at an estimated cost of £3 million. Tolls restarted on June 1st, but reduced traffic volumes at both crossings mean this shortfall is increasing. Without Government cash, the 50% Tamar TAG discount could be scrapped, and overnight ferries may be forced to stop.
The Joint Chairs of the Committee and the Cabinet Members for Transport in Cornwall and Plymouth requested short term funding from central government to bridge the gap. But this request was rejected by the Government after local MP Sheryll Murray refused to offer her support. Cornwall and Plymouth Councils are doing all they can by offering loans, but this will only delay the crisis and will also increase costs, ultimately making the situation worse. An Act of Parliament forbids the Councils from giving grants to the bridge and ferry.
The Joint Chairs of the Committee and the Cabinet Members for Transport in Cornwall & Plymouth tried to organise a virtual meeting with local MPs. Sheryll Murray did not attend or send an apology and Johnny Mercer sent an apology.
Cornwall Councillor Sam Tamlin, joint chair of the TBTFJC which manages the crossings:
"The Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry are jointly owned by Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council.
"Neither Council is legally allowed to take money from, or give money to the crossings. Without money from Central Government, the only legal way for us to balance the books is to increase tolls, reduce maintenance or cut services. All of these options would be bad news for Cornwall, which has already been hit hard by COVID."
But Liberal Democrat campaigners say there is another option.
Cllr Colin Martin:
"Central Government has given over £100 billion to private businesses in the past three months. That's enough to run the bridge and ferry for the next 6,000 years! Yet our local MP won’t support calls for just 0.003% of that money to replace the lost tolls.”
“To add insult to injury, Ms Murray then wrote a letter to Torpoint Town Council implying that toll collectors and travellers should have handled cash throughout the pandemic, including those with COVID symptoms heading to the Plymouth testing centre as well as patients heading to Derriford for essential treatments such as chemotherapy.”
“Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council acted swiftly to prevent the spread of the virus. Our MP should be praising them for protecting toll staff and the public, and fighting for Government support with the costs. Instead she’s using it as an opportunity to play party-politics."