Johnny Mercer: I will fight tooth and nail for Tamar Bridge commuters
I write my first op-ed for the Herald on an issue which frustrates many Plymothians’ daily commute, the Tamar Bridge. The gateway to the Ocean City carries over 16 million vehicles a year, more than ten times that carried in the early years. The future prosperity of our proud city is bound to the bridge. Despite this legacy, the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Joint Commitee have failed to keep up with the ballooning cost to maintain the aging bridge, opened in 1962, with the increase in traffic.
The bridge’s finances are in dire straits with the reserves expected to run out by 2025. Borrowing has spiraled from roughly £10 million in 2004 to £41 million today. There are serious questions to be levelled at the Joint Committee over the capital projects funded during this time, such as the construction of clearly unaffordable new offices. If swift action is not taken, Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council will have to foot the bill with immense cost to the local taxpayer.
I know and share everyone’s concerns about the Tamar Bridge toll rises. I thank my constituents in Plymouth Moor View for flagging their genuine concerns with my dedicated team working from my constituency office on Pemros Road, St Budeaux. The Tamar Toll Action Group (TTAG) has made a compelling case for why the Tamar should be considered differently to other tolled crossings. This is an unacceptable position to be in. Plymothians cannot be expected to pay for the mismanagement of others amid a cost-of-living crisis.
Improving Plymouth’s transport links is one of my key strategic priorities. I secured funding for the redesign and build of Plymouth train station as well as multi-million funding settlements for main road upgrades throughout the city. I am equally determined to deliver a positive solution for Tamar Bridge commuters.
My position is clear, no toll hike in 2024. I am doing everything in my power to help clear the £41 million debt, working closely with the Transport Minister and neighbouring MPs. Going forward, I believe that aligning tolls with the Office for National Statistics’ Retail Prices Index (RPI) would be a fair and responsible solution. RPI is a well-known measure of inflation which will help keep tolls in line with the price to maintain the Tamar Bridge and avoid unaffordable toll hikes.
In all candour, no-one has worked harder on this than Sheryll Murray and together we are working hard to get options from the Government to mitigate these rises. It is crucial that we get the right people around the table to find a workable solution. I welcome the latest announcement by the Roads Minister Richard Holden to form a Tamar Bridge Task Force. I urge everyone to drop their political games, come around the table and agree on a shared plan to resolve this ongoing funding crisis for Plymouth and the wider South West.
I do this for you. If you would like to raise any issues about the Tamar Bridge or anything Plymouth, please contact me via johnny@johnnyforplymouth or 01752 876979. Furthermore, if you would like to be notified about what I am doing in Plymouth, including when I next write an op-ed for the Herald, please sign up to my mailing list here.