The real cost of the toll on Swinford bridge in Oxfordshire is far higher than 5p
The B4044 crosses the Thames half a mile outside Eynsham on a bridge built in 1769 at Swinford. A toll bridge. Motorists using it outside peak hours might think this toll-paying quirk of history quaint, but for those of us who have to use the bridge every morning, it's no joke.
Every car using the toll bridge crawls along (if you're lucky) in a slow-moving queue, and then stops to pass a measly 5p coin to the toll collector. Lorries, vans, trucks and buses pay more. Thousands of residents of west Oxfordshire work in Oxford and Abingdon have no choice but to use the toll bridge. According to Oxfordshire County Council, 10,000 vehicles a day use the bridge.
Since vast new estates have been built in nearby Witney the pressure on this route has reached crisis point. In the morning rush hour the queues run right back into Eynsham, a mile away.
If bridge users didn't have to stop pay that nonsensical toll, then the traffic could keep moving over the bridge - which is wide enough for two vehicles to pass. Yes, traffic would still be heavy but no one would actually have to stop. It's the stopping to pay the toll that causes the problems.
This campaign calls for tolls to be scrapped immediately on Swinford bridge. Here's why:
Waste of time
An average motorist using the bridge each working day wastes 6½ hours every month waiting to pay the 5p toll - virtually a whole working day. With 10,000 vehicles using the bridge every day, the time wasted must run into thousands of hours a week.
Collectively the costs of this pointless toll collection are massive. The needless waste of time by commuters must run into tens of thousands of lost hours a week.
If you're a bridge user, work out how many hours a month you spend in the queue. You’ll be horrified.
We pay our road tax. Why should those of us who use the bridge every working day pay an £25 extra a year on average? It is grossly unfair.
5p per car. It's not a lot, but it all adds up. Now, in the 21st century, why are we bound by 18th century transport laws? How is it that a bridge on a busy route - 10,000 vehicles a day - is still privately owned and creaming in our cash? How is that not ‘highway robbery’? And still, most of us still say 'thank you' to the toll collectors. We must be mad!
A little maths OCC's estimate of 10,000 vehicles a day at 5p each (many vehicles pay more) works out at an average of £500 a day. Multiply that by 365 and you get more than £180,000 a year.
Waste of fuel
The daily traffic queues are not just a pointless traffic jam, they are thousands of idling engines, sometimes revving in low gear, or crawling along, wasting expensive, precious and dwindling fossil fuels. At a time of global economic crisis and with global warming a scientific fact, wasting fuel and money is a crime against the planet as well as sheer madness.
All those engines idling, crawling slowly along wasting fuel create clouds of poisonous choking emissions. On hot, still summer days you can actually see the fumes as well as smell them. The upper Thames is a glorious natural space right on our doorstep, full of many different species of birds, mammals, fish, insects and plants. Why are we needlessly choking it with fumes just to pay a 5p toll to a private owner?
This beautiful Georgian bridge was built in the 18th century, a time before motor vehicles, when we had a much smaller population, when bridge users were on foot or horse drawn, when central government transport policy didn't exist in the way it does today. Why are we still bound by these antique laws today? Isn't it time to move on? Repeal that silly Act of Parliament which allows a private bridge owner to rake in a living from we held-to-ransom bridge users.
Bridge users have run out of patience. It’s time for Oxfordshire County Council to act now and get that toll scrapped.