LAST month saw a historic moment for two bridges linking England to Wales.

Drivers can now cross the Prince of Wales and Severn Crossing bridge for free, after being tolled for 22 and 52 years respectively. 

The move aims to boost the Welsh economy by £100m a year according to officials – an announcement that has led to demands to scrap tolls on British roads. 

Following the Mersey Gateway controversy, the Silver Jubilee Bridge (SJB) in Runcorn is set to introduce a £2 toll charge when it reopens. But can we expect to see tolls scrapped in the future? 

The Mersey Gateway opened in October 2017.

The local authority has insisted that it wanted a toll-free bridge but both a Labour and then Conservative governments made it clear it would be a tolled bridge or no new bridge.

Despite the council offering a local user discount scheme, the Mersey Gateway tolls have proved unpopular with some drivers paying up to £1,000 a year to use the bridge daily.

So far the new bridge has welcomed more than 18 million vehicles, making profits of £20m in its first six months. But despite the profits, the tolls are set to be in place for decades.

The project was privately financed, meaning the council will have to use the revenue from tolls and fines to pay back the cost of construction and the total investment required to maintain and operate the bridge over a 30-year period.

Funding the project will cost £1.86bn up to 2044 – meaning there will be no prospect of a toll-free bridge until then.

The SJB, known locally as the Runcorn bridge, opened in 1961. The bridge shut when the Mersey Gateway opened, and has since been treated to around £3m worth of repair work.

But the biggest difference will be £2 crossing charge.

Scrap Mersey Tolls campaigners say this will be the first time in Britain that a toll is being placed on a previously free bridge.

But the council said they had no choice, because allowing the old bridge to remain free would divert traffic away from the new crossing.