Page last updated at 12:26 GMT, Monday, 26 October 2009

Campaign starts on toll increase

Protesters holding signs
A rise in construction costs is being blamed for the toll increase

A campaign has begun at a River Thames toll bridge where a new tariff has been brought into force doubling the price for drivers.

Motorists crossing the privately-owned Whitchurch Bridge, between Berkshire and Oxfordshire, will have to pay 40p, an increase of 20p, from Monday.

The Whitchurch Bridge Company said money was needed to fund a replacement crossing, costing £3.2m.

The petition will be presented to Oxfordshire County Council.

Campaigners from action group TollFreeze began an hour-long demonstration at 0800 GMT asking drivers to sign a petition urging the council to remove the toll on the bridge.

'Rising costs'

Colin Cooper, from TollFreeze, said: "The main reason for the huge increase is that the plans for the new bridge were drawn up so late.

"The bridge company had 107 years to plan and save for the increase, and then left it to just the last five years to plan in detail."

Whitchurch Bridge
Whitchurch Bridge was built in 1902 and has Grade II-listed status

A public inquiry into the proposed toll increase was held in June and a planning inspector recommended approval, which was granted in October.

Geoff Weir, from the Whitchurch Bridge Company, said the increase had been justified at the inquiry, and was due to rising construction costs.

"In 2004, we had sufficient funds in our bridge replacement fund to pay for a new bridge," he said.

"It was only because of the sharp increase in construction costs in 2005 that we had to revise our business plan."

The campaign has been supported by MPs John Howell and Martin Salter.

The Grade II-listed structure was built in 1902 and is the third crossing at the site. About 6,500 cars use the bridge daily.



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SEE ALSO
Toll bridge charge to be doubled
13 Oct 09 |  England
Inquiry call over Thames bridge
20 Dec 08 |  England
Protest over plans to raise toll
11 Dec 08 |  Oxfordshire

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