COUNCILLORS on the committee overseeing the Bridge and Ferry will be asked to approve the coming year’s budget and business plan at a meeting this week (Friday January 12). 

The budget includes the assumption, already agreed by elected representatives on both sides of the River Tamar, that tolls will rise in November to £3 cash and £1.50 for Tamar Tag customers. 

The Tamar Crossings operation has another busy and challenging year ahead, say joint chairmen of the committee Martin Worth (Saltash) and Neil Hendy (Plymouth). 

In their introduction to the 2024-25 business plan, they say: “The organisation will make a further application to raise tolls, to compensate for the extreme inflationary pressures placed on limited reserves during 2022 and 2023, and the long term change in travel patterns which followed the COVID pandemic. 

“The second of three refits will reduce service at Torpoint for a number of weeks in April and early May and there will be further impacts on service to complete work rebuilding the shoreside chain gantries associated with that ferry. 

“Major works on the bridge’s main cables and improving the structure’s fire protection system later in the year will be technically challenging and great effort will be made to ensure that the impact on traffic flows will be minimised during refurbishment of toll booths. These projects reflect the committee’s continuing recognition of the need to ensure that the service provided by these essential and strategic crossings under its control remains robust and that programmes take a long view in maintaining the key assets.” 

Tamar Crossings says that a number of measures over the past two years have produced efficiencies and savings of more than £10m. These have included moving to contactless payments, negotiating a new energy contract, and replacing bridge lighting with LED units. 

The longer-term Tamar 2050 programme aims to find more ways to improve efficiency and to explore further ways of keeping toll rises as low as possible. “We will continue to lobby for financial support from the Government and will progress the adoption of indexation to help avoid big jumps in toll prices” said a spokesperson for Tamar Crossings. 

During the coming year, the committee says it will be developing its plans for longer-term investments such as free-flow tolling and the use of automatic number plate recognition. The decarbonisation of the current fleet of ferries is also a project which will be progressed during 2024-25.