Policy Chair for the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales, Ben Francis outlines the potential cross-border opportunities for businesses on either side of the Severn estuary once tolls to use the Crossings are scrapped later this year.
FSB Wales was pleased to welcome the intervention by Alun Cairns and the Prime Minister, after over half a century of charges, to scrap all tolls on the Severn Crossings following many years of campaigning from FSB. The date for the abolition of the tolls is set for the end of 2018.
The tolls have long represented a psychological and major economic barrier to trade and movement between South Wales and the South West of England. We look forward to smaller firms being able to exploit new prospects as a result of this policy decision delivered by the UK Government.
FSB members will see this move as providing for new opportunities to work cross-border and attract investment and talent to Wales from the South West, as well as for English businesses to benefit from easier access to Wales. The business community with the Cardiff Capital City Region partners also need to work together and consider how this move boosts opportunities to positively market the region as a place to start and grow a business, as well as ways to boost tourism and leisure.
We were pleased to attend the Secretary of State for Wales’ Severn Growth Summit alongside hundreds of businesses from both sides of the estuary earlier this year. This event explored the different ways in which businesses in England and Wales can exploit cross border working and can forge new links with businesses and partners.
Business confidence is currently at a high in Wales compared to the other UK nations, and scrapping the tolls will help build on this optimism across the country, with businesses looking to attract new talent from across the border, as well as open up new trading links.
Another important benefit for smaller businesses that may hopefully flow from the removal of the tolls on the Severn Crossings is that it could provide a boost to Welsh tourism firms (many of whom are SMEs) who may benefit from an increase in day trippers heading over the bridges to enjoy a day out.
The removal of the tolls is however only one of the measures needed to enable easy trade and movement for businesses. We now need to move to a resolution for congestion problems on the M4 including proper consideration of all the available options for improvements. We look forward to taking part in the development of new thinking for the M4 corridor and how it can be even more effective for those businesses that rely upon it.
FSB in Wales looks forward to working closely with the Secretary of State for Wales to develop new ideas for SMEs to make the most of increased access to the South West of England. We want the scrapping of the tolls to be only the beginning of new ways for businesses to benefit from working cross-border.
We look forward to seeing businesses in Wales really taking advantage of this as we move into 2019 and beyond.