Clifton Suspension Bridge toll rise goes to inquiry

Clifton Suspension Bridge
Image caption The toll for motor vehicles has been 50p since January 2007

A public inquiry will be held into plans to double the cost of crossing Bristol's Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The bridge's trustees applied to the Department for Transport (DfT) to raise the charge from 50p to £1 last August.

Protestors against the rise say the trust has not justified the 100% price hike and it appears to have substantial funds in its reserves.

The amount of opposition to the plans has persuaded the DfT to hold a hearing before it rules on the bid.

The inquiry will take place around the end of May, a DfT spokeswoman said.

The bridge is used as a popular short cut between Leigh Woods and Clifton.

Campaigner and Leigh Woods resident David Newman said: "The trustees claim the toll must rise to maintain the bridge, but what people don't generally know is that the latest financial accounts show the Trust have a huge stockpile of cash totalling £8.1m."

'£8m maintenance bill'

People living near the bridge say they are worried their roads will become rat runs and car parks as motorists try to avoid the extra fees.

There is also concern it would place increased pressure on already congested roads around the Portway, Anchor Road and Long Ashton bypass.

But the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust - which receives no money from government or local authorities - said the extra money is needed to meet an £8m maintenance bill over the next ten years.

Tim Baines, from the trust, said: "We are required under an act of parliament to have reserve funds for potential large repair bills.

"The alternative is we spend the reserve and if there are further major maintenance bills, the bridge would have to close as there is no money left to pay those bills."

The trust said regular users will still get a discounted price with a pre-paid cash card.

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