HC Deb 09 July 1975 vol 895 cc510-2
5. Mr. Gourlay

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether there was an increase or decrease in the number of cars using the Forth Road Bridge in March 1975 as compared with March 1974.

Mr. Millan

The number of cars and commercial vehicles under 30 cwt, which are counted as a single category, rose from 536,000 in March 1974 to 589,000 in March 1975.

Mr. Gourlay

Those figures are to some extent a little more encouraging than those indicated some weeks ago. Is the Minister aware, however, that on the Severn Bridge, where the toll charge for a car is 12p, one can purchase a book of 50 tickets with a 10 per cent. reduction and on the Tamar Bridge, where the toll charge is 10p for a car, one can purchase a book of 20 tickets at half price? Therefore, as a first step towards the abolition of toll charges, will my right hon. Friend encourage the Forth Road Bridge authority to introduce some concessions of either 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. for regular users purchasing books of 40 tickets, which are available at present, which would produce an increase in local traffic and thus help local commuters between Fife and Edinburgh?

Mr. Millan

I think that any proposals of that sort would have to come from the Forth Road Bridge Joint Board in the first instance. If the board were to put such proposals to me, I would consider them.

Sir John Gilmour

Does the Minister agree that if season tickets or concessionary tickets for regular users were allowed, the other traffic would be able to make the crossing more quickly? I happen to know that a distinguished visitor who was going to Fife last weekend was held up for a long time before crossing the bridge.

Mr. Millan

I dare say that it would speed up the traffic, but it would also reduce the revenue and that must be taken into account.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the imposition of tolls on road bridges may have an adverse effect on the Government's energy-saving measures, as the tolls might well discourage the use of bridges by cars and lead to the use of additional petrol? Will he get rid of tolls on bridges, as I think the Labour Government said they would do in 1964?

Mr. Millan

I have already made clear on previous occasions that I see no prospect at the moment of abolishing tolls altogether. The fact is that even with the tolls it is less expensive to use the bridges than to go the long way round.

Mr. Fairbairn

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why at vast expense the number of tolls has been increased by six and the number of people mantling them has remained the same, so that a majority of the tolls are normally shut, apparently regardless of the volume of traffic such as it to be found at the Royal Highland Show at Ingleston?

Mr. Millan

I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman has raised this question with me before. I think the answer was that it was his Government who did it. However, if we are responsible in any way, I shall look into the matter.