Fear for small businesses as toll increase looms

Van drivers with commercial vehicle insurance could be set for an increase in Humber Bridge tolls after proposed increases across the entire six vehicle categories were announced by Humber bridge officials.

Documents seen by the Grimsby Telegraph also reveal further plans to combine the classifications, making three groups instead of six, and the changes mean that small businesses are set to be the hardest hit.

The Humber Bridge was opened in July 1981 and if the plans are given the green light it will see the bridge being the most expensive toll crossing in Great Britain. The charges would go up by 11% to £3 each way for cars from April 1st 2011.

Many small businesses are already under pressure at the moment because of the current economic climate and increasing the tolls will only make the problem worse. They fear it will kill their trade as it will make it difficult and costly for them to do any business across the river.

Business owners who regularly cross the bridge in their vans have reacted angrily to the new proposals. Ron Rookledge, who owns East Yorkshire Cleaning, said “If I get a cleaning inquiry from over there I go across and do a quote first and then go back and do the job. That means four trips across and that puts additional cost on me. With this extra cost I would try to do telephone quotes but, to be honest, my success rate doing that drops. It might be that I would start looking at not going at all. There is no incentive for small business in the East Riding area, just this additional cost. It’s unfair to businesses and it’s unfair to customers who don’t benefit from fair competition.”

The Humber Bridge Board stated the reclassification of vehicles makes it much easier for drivers and it will simplify the charges. Some vehicles will pay more and some will pay less, there will be some winners and some losers. The board also claims it has been forced to apply for the toll increases as they have to pay off its £330 million debt to the government.

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