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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 October 2007, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
Bridge toll plastic payment call
Severn crossing
There are technical and legal obstacles to using cards
The shadow transport minister has called for motorists to be able to pay by plastic to cross the Severn Bridges.

Andrew Davies AM said forcing car drivers to pay the £5.10 fee by cash or cheque was "dated" and "confusing".

His call comes after a man from Penarth claims he was told to turn around and drive back to England to get the money.

The Department for Transport said it was working to see if legal, technical and financial issues could be overcome to allow card payments in the future.

Tony Stott, 61, from Cogan, Vale of Glamorgan, said he was travelling back on the M4 from Devon when he realised he had forgotten to get cash out for the second Severn crossing.

As he had debit and credit cards he thought there must be some way of paying the £5.10 toll.

But when he reached the booth, he was told he would have to turn around and drive back across the bridge towards England to get the money.

Tony Stott
I don't see why they can't take somebody on one side and have a cash card reader
Tony Stott

He described how the barriers came down and all the other traffic was stopped, and he was escorted by a Landrover towards joining the eastbound carriageway.

But when they got on to a bridge across the motorway, Mr Stott said the vehicle began reversing backwards until it was behind him.

Realising he was on the open road, Mr Stott drove off westbound towards south Wales.

The next day, feeling "really quite worried", Mr Stott said he sent off the toll money by post to operators, Severn River Crossing Plc.

"What I find really appalling, is to send you back across the bridge, what good does that do?" he said.

"It's totally environmentally unsound, all the extra miles, for what?"

Second Severn Crossing
Car drivers travelling back into Wales face a £5.10 toll

"I don't see why they can't take somebody on one side and have a cash card reader."

Following Mr Stott's experience, Mr Davies, Conservative AM for South Wales Central, has written to Severn River Crossing Plc.

Mr Davies said people were increasingly reliant upon debit and credit cards.

"It is possible to pay by card in many small corner shops, yet not for a company that takes payments from millions of vehicles every year.

"The Severn bridges are flagship gateways into Wales and marvels of 20th Century British engineering.

"It would a shame for the prestige of these modern gateways to Wales to be damaged because of dated payment methods."

General manager Jim Clune said he had not yet received Mr Davies' letter, and the issue was a matter for the Department for Transport/Highways Agency.

Warning signs

"To resolve this matter, the legislation will need to be changed and this can only be arranged by the relevant government department," he said.

A Department for Transport spokesman said advance warning signs advised motorists that tolls were for cash only.

He also pointed out that the pre-payment Severn TAG scheme was available to regular bridge users.

"However, we are currently working closely with Severn River Crossings plc to see if the legislative, technical and financial issues can be overcome to allow credit card payments."

Below is a selection of your comments on how travellers have been affected.

What is the official policy on people reaching the toll booth and not being able to pay ? Four days ago, while returning from Bristol I was stuck behind someone unable to pay, they filled out a form and were then allowed to drive off. While it was irriting for me and others in that queue it seemed less disruptive than the resolution attempted in the report.
Brian, Cardiff

Would it not be easier to have a cashpoint machine in the control room area at side of all the booths(which is guarded anyway, I assume), to allow those arriving for the first time at the booths to obtain the cash and then be escorted through a safe area booth? It is the 21st century after all !!!
Stewart Hey, Llanelli, Wales

I once got to the toll booth before i found out that i didn't have any money. I was forced to follow a vehicle which showed me a way back over the M4 in the direction of England. I then had to drive into Avonmouth to get cash to enable me to pay the toll on the way home. I offered to give my name and address and also the name of the company i was working for at the time. I was given no options other that to turn around and get some cash.
Mark Jones, Bridgend, South Wales

I to have been turned away at the tolls on the one day I realised too late that I didn't have my TAG and no cash, and was advised to go back to Avonmouth for the nearest cash machine. A small local shop where I live has a Cash machine why can't the offices at the tolls have one? I travel to Bristol from Cardiff everyday and vehicles being turned around is a regular occurrence including foreign juggernauts. Having had a TAG for many years, leaving it stuck to your windscreen is like leaving your Stat Nav on the windscreen overnight, it wouldn't be there in the morning and the double sided velcro they give you lasts about 2 weeks. The bridge maybe high tech but the payment methods are stuck in the seventies.
Mr Bryan Seaward, Cardiff

Last year I also did not have the cash to pay and realised this as I was on the bridge. I did however have my debit card and thought that I would be fine to pay by card or accept a ticket to pay within 28 days. However, I was told that I would have to be escorted back across the bridge and find a cash point before returning. The barriers came down, all the traffic was stopped and I was escorted by probably the same liveried escort vehicle until I was proceeding Eastbound. I then had to head to Bristol and find a cashpoint at a garage there some 12 miles away before returning back across the bridge. I was not happy to say the least.
Al Kalebic, Cardiff

As a disabled badge holder, we always have to hold up the traffic behind as we pass the badge across and then they fill in the form and then we have to sign and then get the card back.

Cant see it taking any longer if someone wanted to pay by card in having a chip and pin system in place, a quick swipe of the card, motorist sticks in the personal identification number (pin), transaction takes a few seconds and the motorist is on their way, cant see it would be that difficult to set up with the availability of wireless chip and pin machines now seen in retail stores and restaurants.
J Harries, Pontypridd, Wales

I quite agree with the fact that not being able to pay by credit/debit card is outdated on the Severn crossings. For visitors from overseas and also elderly people it could be very confusing. This last summer I drove to Rome and back and was able to pay tolls by card and not worry about having the correct currency or change. If this can be done in our neighbour countries why can it notbe done here?
Alan Holland, Cardiff Cardiff

The marvel of 20th century British engineering comes with dated payment options! Some organisations need to wake up and realise that this is the 21st century. Severn River Crossings plc need no Assembly Member to tell them what to do. It's called moving forward to meet the public's needs.
Dimitris Legakis, Swansea, south Wales

I totally agree!! Many of my friends have had to turn back before - or realised they have no cash and turned off to end up in the back of beyond looking for cash point. It's ridiculous!! It should be very easy to install machines to accept debit/credit cards.. come on - get with the times!
Mary Davies, Penarth

I am from Cardiff but live in Monaco. In France all toll booths accept credit cards (also parking facilities) every time I go home, flying into Bristol, I find it archaic to have to have money on me to pay the toll - and the tolls are operated by a French company so there is no reason not to have the facility. Makes no sense.
Cronshaw, Monaco

Thank goodness some commonsence -you don't even need a person to deal with debit card payments they could just have a booth that you put your card in typed your pin and hey presto you have paid!
D Avery, Bushey

Unfortunatley i too have been caught out by this twice. It is unbelieveble that we are still forced to pay by cash. Just after the toll went up to £5.10 i only had £5 on me (believing that the toll was £4.90) i was then escorted around into back eastbound carrageway by a land rover and directed the 15 miles to the nearest cash point - all for just £0.10. I tried to pay be card both times as i always carry them on me, however i was told that this was impossible.
Mark Brace, Manchester, England

As the motorist is warned on route to the bridge, and also should know the route he is taking, he should have enough to pay the toll!
Jim Trerise,

My 21 year old daughter was also escorted back towards Bristol to get cash and she was travelling on her own in the evening and felt like a criminal. I agree that the operators need to move with the times and allow cards to be used to pay the toll. My daughter had cards on her, as most people do these days, but not enough cash.

What does this Customer Service say about Wales?

In my daughter's case, which was a genuine mistake, she just assumed a card would be OK, I would have thought taking her name and address and car registration and giving her a bill would have been more customer friendly.

Tracy Shellard, Cardiff

As a regular Severn Bridge commuter I regularly see drivers being escorted back to the eastbound carriageway have had not cash or check to pay the toll. A high proportion I see are not local, often foreign who obviously don't have local knowledge. I quite agree that the cash payment only method is antiquated and certainly unwelcoming. I personally have been asked to turn around because of a lack of 10p. Only after asking the driver behind was I able to continue through the toll. The tolls have very prominent signs saying abuse of the toll operators will not tolerated - this is a direct consequence of the turn back policy.
Paul Tennant, Cowbridge, Wales

Last year I got turned around on the bridge for not having cash and had an escort to get back around. Apparently it is a regular occurrence. It is staggering they don't take cards after all it is French owned and all the toll booths over there take cards !
Steve Womack, Lybrook, Gloucestershire

Every year we take kids to the Brecon Beaclons for their Duke of Edinburgh award expedition and ever year we have to make sure the cash is ready - if EVERY toll booth in France can take cards why do Severn River Crossing Plc live in the dark ages. Blaming legislation is just nonsense!
David Aarons, Hemel Hempstead, UK

They can take payment by credit/debit card on the M6 Toll, so the legal and technical excuse excuse sounds very flimsy to me.
Nick, Lancashire, UK

I think it¿s high time both Severn Bridges take plastic. When the toll was a few pound¿s the need for electronic payment was limited, but now with a charge of £5.10 (and no-doubt another increase due on the 1st January 2008) there should be a card payment option. I can go and by my cup of coffee at the corner shop and pay by card, but if I use my car to drive home from Bristol I have to have cash? The article also mentions the TAG Scheme, this is of no use to the occasional user like myself. Come on all parties concerned have the will to bring the toll payment in to the 21st Century.
Grahame Payne, Caldicot, Monmouthshire

What I find awkward is the 10p of the £5.10 !
David Robinson, Gillingham, Kent, England

I use the bridge regularly as i live in South wales yet work in Bristol. It is well displayed before getting too far onto the SSC that cash is the only form of payment. this is not a problem as there is a cash machine at the Severn Veiw services before going across the old bridge, which can be accessed after the first signs saying about cash only. This however does cost money to withdraw your money, which beggers the question of why is there a free cash machine at Magor services when it is free to use the bridge travelling East whilst travelling West, when you have to pay, it costs money to withdraw any cash.
Pete Jeffers, Bridgend, South Wales

Traffic filtering scheme planned
23 Sep 07 |  Bristol
Severn Bridge gets cable blow dry
02 Aug 07 |  South East Wales
New Severn crossing charges begin
01 Jan 07 |  South East Wales
Price increase for bridge traffic
01 Jan 05 |  South East Wales


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