Page last updated at 07:50 GMT, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Bridge debt pay-off call rejected

The Humber Bridge
A planned increase in the tolls will go before a public inquiry

The government has rejected calls to pay off the Humber Bridge debt to reduce toll charges on the crossing.

MPs from East Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire debated the issue in the House of Commons.

They said abolition of the tolls would lead to growth in the area's economy, but the government said there were more pressing transport demands.

A public inquiry is due to examine a proposed increase in the bridge tolls next week.

The planned rise means car drivers would pay 2.90 each way across the bridge, 20p more than current prices.

Rises 'wrong'

The Conservative MP for Beverley and Holderness, Graham Stuart, told MPs the tolls were already too high.

He said: "Five pounds forty for a return crossing is a significant financial burden.

"Increasing the cost of crossing the bridge at a time when unemployment is rising and household budgets are being squeezed would be completely the wrong thing to do and fly in the face of other government policies supposedly to stimulate the economy."

Shona McIsaac, the Labour MP for Cleethorpes, said research had shown that people would be in favour of paying a more-affordable "token toll" of 1.

And Labour MP for Great Grimsby, Austin Mitchell, told MPs that if the tolls were abolished the Treasury would make more in taxes through the growth in the local economy than it currently did through the tolls.

But Transport Minister Paul Clark said: "I hear the demands to write off debt to do away with tolls but I have to say that there are many competing demands in terms of the transport requirements in terms of trains, in terms of bus subsidies, in terms of fare subsidies, that have to be met.

"I therefore urge that we have to await the outcome of the public inquiry."

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Increase in Humber Bridge tolls
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