QUEUES for the Tamar Bridge have been causing misery for motorists – and have lent further fuel to the campaign to see toll charges lifted. 

Long delays in crawling traffic from Carkeel to the bridge were reported at times last week, and there was similar congestion on the Plymouth side. 

Tamar Crossings, which operates the bridge and ferry, said that the lengthy waits were down to several factors including high traffic volume and issues elsewhere in the network having a knock-on effect, and that they were investigating to identify any specific causes. 

But some drivers last week stated that there had also been problems with tag payments. 

One Saltash resident describes the queues through the town and the tunnel as a regular occurrence and says she dreads the summer holiday period. 

Rebecca Davies says she loves living in the area but that she is considering moving out of Cornwall altogether purely because of the headache caused by the bridge. 

“I use the bridge at least once a day, there and back, and in term time I use it at least twice a day, so four journeys: I have one child who attends school in Plymouth and one in Landulph. 

“Both my children are disabled and I have missed or been late for hospital appointments due to being held up on the bridge.”

Rebecca added: “One day last week it took 56 minutes to get from the Carkeel roundabout to the toll booths. The traffic was standstill in the tunnel so I took the slip road through Saltash. As soon as I’d turned off I was hit with standstill traffic on the slip road. I was hoping to miss the queues for the paying tolls and drive through the tag lane. But at least six cars in front of me were sat waiting for a paying toll booth, with the tag lane empty. 

“Summer has always been busier, but not to this extent on a daily basis,” Rebecca continued. “Our roads, especially the bridge, can’t handle the amount of traffic. Outside summer, it’s not unusual to have the same problems with congestion at rush hours. 

“I feel the bridge is no longer fit for purpose. Making tolls free would help with the traffic flow a lot, but another bridge or at least adding at least another two lanes on the current one is what’s needed. Pollution must be so high in Saltash.” 

A spokesperson for Tamar Crossings said: “We are aware of some significant congestion during certain periods on the days in question – August 29,30,31 and September 1. Our journey time data for those days indicates a maximum journey time eastbound from Carkeel to St Budeaux of approximately 15 minutes, and westbound over the same route of approximately 10 minutes. During the congested periods journey times were typically 10 to 14 minutes, significantly higher than normal, but nowhere near the hour suggested. 

“Periods of traffic congestion can be caused by a multitude of factors and combinations of factors. These can include the amount of traffic and specific incidents such as breakdowns or accidents on the bridge or elsewhere. 

“We manage the centre traffic lane on the main deck of the Bridge to run either eastbound or westbound in an effort to balance the relative flows,” the spokesperson continued. 

“On busy summer days during school holidays there are often high traffic flows in both directions and this makes it particularly challenging to minimise queuing and we believe that this was a factor on some of these days.” 

The recent delays have prompted renewed calls for tolls to be removed on the crossings. 

Stuart Wilson has written an open letter to his MP and to Saltash Town Councillors. He writes: “My wife and I are part of a rapidly growing group of people and businesses that agree with the many frustrated motorists who need to use the A38 and are charged a tax for that privilege. 

“People who live in Cornwall but work in Devon - Derriford is just one example - have to pay the toll just to get to work - and then have to sit in queuing traffic held up by those tolls. The cost in pollution, wear and tear on vehicles and frustration is huge; people on low wages  experience an extra tax on their limited resources and sit in queues that are injurious to their health and sanity. 

“When the tag is not working there are even more and longer delays. If a bus is behind a car stuck in the tag only lane, then the entire toll plaza grinds to a halt. 

“New Road is clogged more often now, because people who don’t want to queue in the tunnel and on the bridge think it might save time to get off the A38 and use the Saltash slip road, then approach from Saltash. More frustration for locals wanting to use the bridge.” 

The Tamar Toll Action Group (TTAG) says that delays and air quality are inextricably linked to the way in which tolls are collected on the bridge: eliminating tolls would reduce both, it says. The action group is encouraging people to make their views known to local political representatives and to raise concerns and questions with the Joint Bridge and Ferry Committee. The committee is set to meet tomorrow (Thursday September 7, 10am) as is Saltash Town Council (7pm).