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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 June 2007, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Bridge bosses urge debt 'holiday'
Humber Bridge: picture by David Lee Photography Ltd
Humber Bridge bosses are hoping to emerge from a cloud of debt
Humber Bridge tolls could fall if the government backs new plans to suspend its massive debt repayments.

The bridge's management team is to ask Transport Secretary Alistair Darling to agree to a "payment holiday" of several years on the structure's 333m debt.

Bridge master Peter Hill said tolls could then be cut significantly because 80% of its income went on debt payment.

The bridge board also wants to replace its old toll booths with an electronic payment system to speed up journeys.

Under the current repayment agreement the bridge debt will not be paid off until 2033.

Bridge managers believe that suspending repayments for a few years would not leave the Treasury out of pocket because cheaper tolls would boost the local economy, therefore increasing tax receipts.

'Damage to business'

Mr Hill said: "For the last 26 years people have been banging on the same old drum - 'cancel the debt, cancel the debt' - but the government is not going to do that.

"We feel we need to have a fresh look at the debt.

"We are trying to show the Treasury they will receive just as much revenue through increased business in the region by allowing us a payment holiday."

Jenny Walton, of campaign geroup Humber Action Against Tolls, said: "We are 100% behind this proposal from the bridge board, though ideally tolls would be removed all together.

"The tolls are the most expensive in Britain, they hurt families and businesses, discourage tourism and generally damage the economy on both sides of the river.

"People on the south side of the river are the worst affected as they have to cross the river for many purposes including hospital visits."




SEE ALSO
Bridge petition signed by 2,000
01 Mar 07 |  Humber

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