Page last updated at 21:20 GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Toll bridge to be sold at auction

swinford toll traffic
Traffic at the toll can be very heavy in the rush hour

The Swinford toll bridge outside Oxford is to be sold at auction next month.

The bridge across the River Thames was built in 1767 and is now used as an alternative route into Oxford city centre at rush hour.

About four million vehicles pass over the bridge each year, paying a toll of 5p per car and up to 50p per lorry.

The bridge at Eynsham is privately owned and the freehold is expected to sell for between £1m and £1.25m when it is auctioned on 3 December in London.


In a loophole in British law, the bridge enjoys tax-free status following a 1767 Act of Parliament which granted private ownership of the bridge and its tolls to the Earl of Abingdon and "to his heirs and assignees for ever".

The private owner can charge a toll, without paying income tax or capital taxes such as capital gains tax, inheritance tax and stamp duty.

The current 5p toll to cross the bridge could only be changed by another Act of Parliament.

The bridge was put up for sale in May after the previous owner Graham Smith died.

A buyer was not found and so the bridge is being auctioned by property consultants Allsop at The Park Lane Hotel in London.

Local campaigners have said they hope the new owner will get rid of the toll completely.

They say traffic at the toll builds up a mile-long tailback in the rush hour.

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