To ask the Scottish Executive whether it intends to extend the commitment in respect of the Skye bridge to freeze tolls at their current level to other bridges and transport infrastructure schemes, in particular to the Forth, Tay and Erskine bridges. (S1O-79)
The four bridges were procured under different statutes, and have different toll levels, maintenance costs and capital debts. We will freeze the tolls on the Skye bridge at 1999 levels. Tolling at the other bridges will be considered nearer the dates when the respective rights to collect tolls expire, as set out in the relevant statutes.
Does not the minister agree that the Skye bridge, which we mentioned this morning during the PFI debate, was built using private finance and seeks private returns? However, the Forth road bridge, in particular, was built with public money, was paid for by the public and has been paid off by the public. Why are we still paying tolls and how will the Government and the Executive abolish them?
We are still paying tolls because we are still paying for the costs of the bridges. The partnership agreement commits us to freezing tolls at 1999 levels and to examine the impact of the discounted schemes that are in operation. At the moment, discounted tickets are used for one journey in two and by nine out of 10 buses and lorries. During the winter, discounted tickets are used for seven out of 10 passenger journeys in cars.