A PLEA has been made to find other income streams to fund the Tamar Bridge and avoid the public footing the bill as toll charges increase like a “galloping racehorse”.

The Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Joint Committee approved a recommendation last month for the cash toll to increase from £2.60 to £3 and £1.30 to £1.50 for Tamar Tag payments.

If the rise is supported by both Cornwall and Plymouth councils and the secretary of state for transport, it will take effect later this year.

The committee says it needs to increase its reserves which have almost depleted to fund work on the bridge and Torpoint Ferry. It predicts that by 2027/2028 it will have more than £3 million in the bank if the rise goes ahead.

But local residents have protested and are asking for bridge and ferry tolls to be abolished, and the government to take over funding the crossings operations instead of the local authorities.

Cornwall councillor Armand Toms (Ind, East Looe and Deviock) accused fellow committee members of not fighting for the people and said more should be done to lobby the government.

“Why are we penalising people the local population. There is more deprivation now then I have seen in my 20 plus years as a councillor and it’s worse in Plymouth than it is in Cornwall.

“We need to see where we can control our spending and come up with a proper business plan that looks at other ways of generating income.

“We just keep putting the tolls up and up and it’s like galloping racehorse.”

He said more renewable energy schemes should be part of the plan to save money.

He told the committee, made up of both Cornwall and Plymouth councillors, that the south west is a poor relation to places like Scotland where the population is smaller yet there is £2,000 more funding per person.

“I don’t care what colour the government is, we should not be paying for the things that are free in Scotland and Wales.”

The committee was told that until 2019, Tamar Bridge tolls had not been increased for nine years but when reserves erode, fees need to rise.

Finances had also taken a significant hit during the covid years where numbers of people crossing the bridge from Saltash to Plymouth drastically reduced, which was followed by high inflation.

Finance analyst manager for Cornwall Council Geraldine Baker said two independent reviews had taken place into the finances and workings of the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Joint Committee  and there is a clear action plan. She said solar panels had been put on the bridge office and more schemes are being investigated.

Councillors considered five proposals for the tolls last month after a public consultation.

Following the vote, joint committee chairs Councillor Martin Worth and Councillor Neil Hendy said they had “considered all the responses to the recent public consultation on how to address the financial shortfall.

“We are facing unprecedented financial challenges now, and need to ensure that we have funding to deliver these services so that the bridge and ferries can continue to deliver the safe, reliable crossings that the community relies upon.

“We will be continuing to lobby the government for funding and can modify or withdraw the request to increase tolls at any time if the government does decide to provide financial support.”