Campaigners want 5p bridge toll scrapped

First published in News by

TOLLS for a West Oxfordshire bridge should be scrapped, local campaigners say.

The Swinford toll bridge should stop charging 5p to motorists passing over it, according to West Oxfordshire councillors David Rossiter and Brenda Smith.

They are backed by Eynsham residents, who have started an online petition against the toll, which affects 10,000 motorists every day.

Jane Tomlinson, 43, of Newland Close, Eynsham, an artist, who travels over the bridge by bus every day, has set up an online petition calling for action to be taken. She said: "I waste 95 minutes of my life every week sitting in traffic, the fumes are horrendous. On a hot day, you can see them hanging in the air around the bridge.

"It's not paying the toll, which is minimal, it's the delays caused by the way they collect it."

She said there was a strong feeling in Eynsham of frustration about the bridge. So far, 38 people have added their names to the petition.

"We have already been in discussions with Mr Cameron about this. Even if we did buy the bridge and scrap the toll, there would still be congestion, and perhaps even more congestion, because more traffic would be encouraged to use the bridge."

David Robertson, county council member for transport

The petition calls for Witney MP David Cameron to work with the county council to repeal the Act of Parliament which allows the bridge to charge tolls, and for the council to compulsorily purchase the bridge.

Mr Rossiter and Mrs Smith, both district councillors, called for the Department for Transport, the county council, and Mr Cameron to start discussions with the bridge owners, to come up with an alternative to the charge.

At a full district council meeting, scheduled for April 26, they intend to complain the toll causes long delays to motorists and pollution from exhaust fumes.

Mr Rossiter said: "It might have been OK in the 18th century, but not today. We are asking for our MP, the county council, and the owner of the toll bridge to sit down together and find a way of making the situation better."

Mr Cameron said: "I am willing to campaign for the Act of Parliament needed to buy the bridge and scrap the toll. I have made this clear to the county council, but they don't feel that's the way forward. It's a difficult and complicated situation, and I sympathise with people frustrated by the delays. I use the bridge myself, and find it frustrating. It does seem frankly rather strange to have to queue up and pay 5p."

David Robertson, county council member for transport, said: "We have already been in discussions with Mr Cameron about this. Even if we did buy the bridge and scrap the toll, there would still be congestion, and perhaps even more congestion, because more traffic would be encouraged to use the bridge.

"There would have to be traffic lights or traffic-calming anyway. We are trying to encourage more people to use public transport. It is a big problem, but there's no simple solution." When asked if the council had already met the bridge owners for talks, or would in the future, Mr Robertson would only said 'we are exploring all options'.

Mr Rossiter and Mrs Smith also want action taken to improve the ageing bridge over the River Thames at Newbridge, which dates back to the 13th century. The bridge was closed for repairs for two weeks in March, but the councillors feel the county council had not given people enough notice.

Mr Rossiter added: "There's a general feeling we are relying on three really old bridges to take all the traffic across the River Thames."

The district council will decide whether it supports their motion.

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