Highland Council has today announced that it is to launch a legal bid to have the toll charges on the Infamous Skye Bridge done away with.
Built by a private consortium in a deal with the then Scottish Office in 1995, the bridge apparently cost £23.64 million but, for some reason, the Skye Bridge Company was told that it could actually collect £31 million. By June 2003, the company had collected £27.25 million in tolls and it is estimated that this figure is now approaching £31 million so the debt should be clear.
However, Highland Council claims that only a small part of this money has gone to reduce the debt with the greater part being taken by the Skye Bridge Company as profit for its shareholders. The percentage of the tolls that goes to pay off the outstanding debt reduces by 6% each year and this year only 32 pence out of every £1 will be set against the debt and 68 pence will be taken as profit by the Company! Next year, only 29 pence will be set against the debt and 71 pence will be taken as profit! At this rate it will take an estimated 27 years to clear the debt, during which time a staggering £128 million will have been taken in tolls! Take into account the number of motorists who decline to pay the £11.40 charge for a return trip and stay on the mainland and the true cost to the misty isle becomes enormous.
Taxpayers, too, have had to have had to pay a share with £14.6 million of public funds contributed to the construction cost, some £8.6 million more than was publicly acknowledged. A further £1 million every year is paid to Caledonian MacBrayne as compensation for the loss of its ferry service, now replaced by the bridge, and this will amount to another £27 million of public money by the end of the tolling process.
Highland Council has now voted unanimously to seek a judicial review at the Court of Session and, if successful, charging the tolls will become a criminal offence and will cease.
2nd June 2004.
Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace today pledged that motorists would be able to cross the Skye Bridge free of charge by the end of 2004.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, he said 'Professional advisers have been appointed and discussions with the Skye Bridge Company have begun. I believe that we can achieve our goal by the end of this year'.
A review is also underway into toll charges presently being charged on the Tay, Forth and Erskine bridges.
UPDATE 21 Dec 2004: Skye Bridge Toll Removed - Click Here