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Friday, 31 August, 2001, 06:11 GMT 07:11 UK
Tolls suspended on Scottish bridge
Erskine Bridge
Tolls have been suspended on the Erskine Bridge
Toll charges on the Erskine Bridge have been suspended after the Scottish Executive discovered it had been collecting money illegally for the last two months.

The move follows a failure to extend legislation, which allows officials to collect money for the crossing over the River Clyde.

Transport Minister Sarah Boyack says her decision to suspend the charges comes after an administrative failure to extend the Tolling Order.

The Scottish National Party has branded the oversight as "a stunning act of incompetence".

Sarah Boyack
Sarah Boyack: "Deeply unfortunate"
Under current regulations the Tolling Order should have been renewed on 2 July this year.

The executive will now have to use the Scottish Parliament's fast-track procedures to initiate legislation to rectify the situation.

The new law will be backdated until July but until it comes into force all charges on the Erskine Bridge - which crosses the Clyde west of Glasgow, linking Renfrewshire to West Dunbartonshire - have been suspended.

Ms Boyack said: "This error is deeply unfortunate. It should not have happened."

"The legislation we propose will rectify the position from 2 July. In the meantime I have ordered tolls to be suspended immediately."

The minister said that she had asked the head of the transport department to investigate the circumstances surrounding the mistake and make recommend how best to avoid the situation occurring again.

'Act of incompetence'

An executive spokesman added that it was "very rare" for administrative oversights of this nature to occur but the toll suspension was likely to continue for "a matter of weeks".

The toll suspension has been seized upon by the SNP who branded the oversight as "a stunning act of incompetence".

The party's transport spokesman, Andrew Wilson, said: "If the government cannot even run Scotland's bridges - which is a matter of simple administration - how can they be trusted to run the rest of Scotland properly?

"The question also arises that if the government have been charging motorists illegally would motorists be able to claim compensation."

Mr Wilson said the situation was "a total mess" and accused Ms Boyack off "taking her eye off the ball".

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 ON THIS STORY
Transport Minister Sarah Boyack
"We put in place systems that will prevent this kind of thing happening again."
Neil Grieg of the AA
"I find it totally amazing."
See also:

12 Sep 00 | Scotland
Ruling forces Skye toll increase
26 Jun 00 | Scotland
Skye tolls 'illegal'
30 Nov 99 | Scotland
VAT threat to bridge tolls
07 Sep 99 | Scotland
Drivers 'face more toll costs'
04 Nov 99 | Scotland
Roads plans prompt mixed reactions
04 Nov 99 | Scotland
Green light for roads projects
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