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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 December, 2004, 11:39 GMT
Timeline: The Skye Bridge tolls
The controversial toll regime on the Skye Bridge crossing has been abolished following a long campaign by islanders.

Skye Bridge
The crossing tolls have caused fierce opposition over nine years
More than 27m had been collected from drivers and protesters have argued that the bridge has paid for itself many times over.

BBC Scotland's news website looks back over the the crossing's history.

October 1989: Tenders go out under the then Conservative-run Scottish Office for a privately-funded bridge connecting Skye to the mainland after Highland Regional Council is told it will be several decades before one can be built using public money.

December 1991: Contracts are signed for the building of the bridge under Scotland's first Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

January 1992: A public inquiry into a bridge begins in Kyle.

15 October, 1995: The last Caledonian MacBrayne ferry makes the five-minute run between Kyle and Kyleakin.

16 October, 1995: The bridge, run by Skye Bridge Limited, officially opens for business. Built by a commercial group led by the Bank of America, the bridge company charges the highest bridge tolls per mile in Europe to recoup its investment.

17 October, 1995: The tolls come into force at midnight and just hours later the first anti-toll protesters are arrested.

January 1996: The first protesters appear at Dingwall Sheriff Court, accused of failing to pay the bridge tolls.

16 December, 1999: Anti-toll campaigners lose a bid at the Appeal Court in Edinburgh challenging the legality of the charges.

January 2000: Scottish ministers freeze the tolls at 1999 levels - 11.40 for a return car journey.

SKYE BRIDGE FINANCES
Bridge cost the operators a total of 39m to build, 12m of which was a government grant
By June 2003, tolls worth about 27m were collected
The Scottish Executive is paying about 27m to buy out the contract
Under the original contract, the franchise period for the Skye Bridge company was to run for 27 years, or until the costs were recovered
The Scottish Executive believes costs would have been recovered in eight years time
The executive calculated it would have had to provide a further 18m in subsidy if it had not bought out the contract - as tolls were frozen at 1999 levels
Tolls collected over that period would have been a further 20m
26 June, 2000: Law expert Professor Robert Black, of Edinburgh University, says the tolls may be illegal. He criticises the tolling order assignation statement by the secretary of state for Scotland for being unsigned and undated.

12 September, 2000: The European Court of Justice rules the UK is breaching EU regulations by not applying VAT to road and bridge tolls operated by private companies, including the Skye Bridge charges.

5 December, 2001: The statutory instruments reference committee at Westminster meets for the first time in almost 25 years and rejects claims that the tolls are illegal after a request from local MP and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy and veteran campaigner Robbie the Pict.

18 February, 2003: Robbie the Pict asks the courts to look into claims that judges in 12 Skye Bridge cases were members of the "secretive" Speculative Society, an elite debating club founded in 1764.

15 May, 2003: Following the Scottish Parliament election on 1 May, the formal written coalition deal between Labour and the Liberal Democrats is agreed after eight days of negotiations. It contains a commitment to "reviewing existing bridge tolls in Scotland and entering into negotiations with a view to ending the discredited toll regime for the Skye Bridge" by 1 January, 2005.

14 January, 2004: The Scottish Parliament is told that financial experts Commerzbank AG have been appointed to advise ministers on ending the toll regime.

3 May, 2004: Frustrated opponents of the tolls risk jail to threaten a relaunch of the "can pay, won't pay" campaign which operated in the early years of the tolls.

7 May , 2004: In its frustration over the tolls, Highland Council decides to petition the Court of Session for a judicial review of the charges.

21 December, 2004: The Scottish Executive announces abolition of the tolls.



SEE ALSO:
Skye Bridge tolls are abolished
21 Dec 04 |  Scotland
Bridge charge deal seems nearer
08 Dec 04 |  Scotland
Motorists attack bridge toll rise
07 Dec 04 |  Scotland
Skye Bridge tolls to be abolished
03 Jun 04 |  Scotland
Bridge protesters renewing fight
03 May 04 |  Scotland
Toll removal 'threatens ferries'
12 Jan 04 |  Scotland


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