The Severn crossing toll was only scrapped in December 2018 but authorities have announced they could start charging motorists again due to an increase in traffic levels.
The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) could introduce a congestion charge on both sides of the two Severn bridges after confirming that traffic has worsened since the tolls were abolished some 13 months ago.
It said it is considering ‘charging measures and controls’ in an effort to curb the number of jams at the crossing.
Congestion charge: Motorists could have to pay to use the Severn crossing again due to a rise in traffic levels since the toll to use the two bridges was scrapped in December 2018
Motorists have been able to cross the two Severn bridges for free since 17 December 2018.
It had previous cost car users £5.60 to cross from England into Wales – though there was no charge for travel in the opposite direction.
When abolished, it was the first time in the 52 years since the first bridge was built that motorists were exempt from charges to use them.
At the time the toll was scrapped, experts estimated that regular commuters would save around £1,400 a year, while some businesses could pocket around £55,000 in transport costs.
However, the Road Haulage Association warned that an increase in congestion as a result of there being no crossing fee could increase costs for firms that would then be passed on to consumers.
Motorists had been paying £5.60 to cross the westbound bridge since January, as the fee was no longer run by the government and was therefore VAT free, reducing the charge from £6.70. It was scrapped in December 2018, however, there has since been a significant rise in traffic
The Road Haulage Association had warned that an increase in congestion at the bridges could result in higher transportation costs for businesses, but supported the abolition of the toll
And it appears the association was correct in their prediction, with traffic levels rising since the toll was removed.
A WECA spokesman told the BBC: ‘The removal of the tolls provides many opportunities to boost the economies of the West of England and South Wales.
‘We are working with the Department for Transport, Highways England, Wales Office and Welsh Government – as well as our constituent councils – to ensure we make the most of these opportunities, while mitigating any potentially negative impacts.
‘This includes considering measures to reduce traffic flow and cut congestion.’
The plans also propose new bus routes, park and ride availability and junction improvements near the bridges to relieve congestion at the crossing.
However, in order to fund these developments, the authorities admitted it could require ‘demand-management measures, such as charging measures and controls’ on both sides of the Severn.
Charges on the original Severn Crossing have been in place since 1966, when the fee stood at two shillings and sixpence – the equivalent of around 13p in decimal currency today
The proposal was revealed in the West of England’s joint local transport plan (JLTP) – the region’s infrastructure blueprint being outlined up to 2036.
No timescales have been given for when a congestion charge might be introduced.
Charges on the original Severn crossing have been in place since 1966, when the fee stood at two shillings and sixpence – the equivalent of around 13p in decimal currency today.
They were then introduced on the second crossing – renamed the Prince of Wales Bridge in April 2018 – when it opened 30 years later in 1996.
Drivers had more recently had to pay £6.70 to cross the bridges linking Wales and England via the M4 and M48 motorways, though this was reduced to £5.60 in January 2018 as the fee was no longer run by the government and was therefore VAT free.
Does the performance of an electric car decline when the temperature drops?
More drivers are likely considering making the switch to electric vehicles given recent news that the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars could be banned as early as 2032.
But that’s not to say motorists don’t have their concerns; primarily centred around range anxiety, a lack of public charging infrastructure, how the national grid will cope with increased demand and the upfront cost of plug-in vehicles.
But another question that might be on the lips of potential buyers – especially at this time of year – is if there is a dip in performance when the weather turns colder?
Temperature toll: Electric car range, battery performance, charging times and effectiveness of regenerative braking all decline when weather conditions turn colder, according to VW
There’s no doubting that electric car demand is on the rise, but given the warnings of sub-zero temperatures in the next week, many will be asking if these vehicles are impacted by cooler conditions.
According to Volkswagen Financial Services’ Fleet division, a drop in degrees will not just impact electric vehicle range, but charging times and regenerative braking systems.
The range of an electric will reduce in cold weather, VW states.
It claims that in the coldest of conditions, range capacities between charges can reduce by up to 50 per cent from a cold start, although in typical use it’s more likely to be around 20 to 30 per cent.
This is mostly the case when owners are making lots of short journeys, where the car cools down between each trip.
The range between vehicle charges can fall by as much as 50 per cent in extremely cold temperatures because electric cars don’t generate waste heat to warm the interior
That’s because electric cars do not generate much waste heat like vehicles with internal combustion engines.
In a petrol or diesel car, waste heat produced by the engine is used to warm the vehicle cabin.
The powerplants in electric vehicles are between 75 and 90 per cent more efficient by comparison and the moving parts in the electric motors don’t generate surplus heat.
That means drivers of electric cars will have to rely on the car’s heating system to get warm when they drive, thus sapping power and reducing range.
Colder batteries cannot be charged as quickly as a warm one and therefore may take longer in the winter
Rapid charging can be slower in cold weather because the battery will be colder than in the summer, and a colder battery cannot be charged as quickly as a warm one, VW explains.
This means charging times may be longer for winter journeys.
It recommends that electric car owners should be aware of this issue when planning an early morning start or a quick pit stop en-route.
A ‘cold-soaked’ battery may not charge at all until it is warmed up by the charger, but there are ways to avoid this (see Smart Charging tip in boxout below).
Performance of electric cars in cold weather isn’t one of the most common hurdles motorists have with switching from petrol and diesel motors, but it does make a difference
Batteries need to be kept warm to perform optimally, which means they either need to be warmed up using their own energy or, ideally, pre-warmed via a chargepoint.
Batteries also need to be kept warm whilst driving – even if you’ve been driving for an hour with the heater on, the inside of your windscreen will still be very cold to touch, and so will the battery underneath the vehicle.
Therefore some energy will be used purely to keep the battery at operating temperature.
Electric cars are fitted with regenerative brakes. These use the vehicle’s electric motor as a generator to convert much of the kinetic energy lost when decelerating back into stored energy in the vehicle’s battery.
Performance of these systems can also reduce in cold weather, because this is also linked to battery temperature and charging.
This means the car may feel different to drive in cold weather, requiring more manual braking from the driver as the effectiveness of regenerative braking is often reduced.
Regenerative brakes aren’t as effective in cold conditions, meaning drivers have to be more involved to slow the car than they would in summer months
How to boost electric car performance when it is cold
Mike Coulton, electric vehicles consultant for Volkswagen Financial Services, there are measures you can take to make your battery-powered car perform more efficiently in icy temperatures.
1. Smart charging
‘If you know what time you’re leaving in the morning, make sure your overnight charge finishes as close to this time as possible.
‘This will mean the battery will be warmer because of the charging activity, so you won’t lose (as much) range by the vehicle having to warm the battery from its own energy reserves.
‘You should also feel more regenerative braking as a result, which is good for range.’
‘This is where you pre-heat the car prior to setting off, but from the mains electricity supply (whilst charging) rather than by using the battery.
‘Another benefit is you’ll never have to scrape your windscreen again – pre-heating the car’s cabin also defrosts all the windows, which is a welcome bonus.
‘On some vehicles you can even remotely turn on the heated seats, steering wheel and windscreen demister too.’
3. Heat management
‘Surprisingly, it is much more efficient to use the heated seats and steering wheel [if your electric car has these features] than it is to heat all the air in the cabin.
‘Therefore, to maximize range in cold weather, it’s recommended that you pre-heat the cabin whilst the vehicle is plugged in and charging to a nice warm temperature, then when you get in turn the cabin heater down 1-2’C and use the heated seats/steering wheel/etc. to maintain a comfortable temperature for the driver and passengers.’
Motorists over 50 accuse car makers of ignoring their needs
Car manufacturers have been accused of being ‘out of touch’ with older audiences following a poll of ageing drivers.
Just one per cent stated that they believed the latest cars were designed with their needs in mind, a survey of 6,500 motorists over 50 show.
The failure to tailor vehicles to the needs of older motorists coincided with the recent plunge in car registrations, which hit a new low ahead of the March plate change, Saga Insurance says.
What do older motorists want manufacturers to do? Reintroduce ignition keys, CD players, chrome plating, bonnet ornaments and wooden steering wheels, according to the research.
Calls for a comeback: Drivers over the age of 50 have blasted car makers for not designing new models to appeal to them. They want to see features like hood ornaments return
When asked what their top priorities were when it came to buying a new car, there were common themes among over 50s drivers.
Reliability topped the list as the most important factor, with 77 per cent saying it was there number one requirement. This was followed by price and safety.
In contrast, technological features such as lane assist and automatic emergency braking were way down the pecking order, being a priority for just 12 per cent of drivers over 50 years.
While they might not want these safety systems, recent road casualty statistics involving older motorists suggests they are needed (see boxout at the bottom of the page).
Just 12% of older drivers said they wanted their new carts to have features such as lane assist (pictured) and automatic emergency braking, despite strong evidence that they cut the number of accidents – especially among ageing motorists with slower reaction times
The survey went on to ask the older motorists which age group they believed car manufacturers have in mind when designing cars nowadays.
Almost two in five said drivers between 35 and 44 years old were the target audience for car firms, while 29 per cent of respondents thought it was 24 to 34 year olds.
Saga Insurance suggested this was a mistake on the part of car makers, given that these two age groups highlighted account for just nine per cent and six per cent of new car sales respectively.
Meanwhile, motorists over 50 make up more than half of all new car buyers – an unsurprising stat considering they are more likely to have the disposable funds to purchase models from showrooms.
Nostalgic: Drivers of 50, unsurprisingly, said they preferred older car design of models from older generations, like the Ford Anglia (pictured) over the latest vehicles
Saga Insurance customers said they preferred the classic Mini Cooper (far left) to the latest versions released this century – though failed to acknowledge the fact that cars have had to become larger and more complex in design to adhere to strict safety requirements
The panel of over drivers were then asked about the styling and design of the latest cars.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, these motorists said they preferred vehicles from the 1960s, followed by the ’70s and ’50s, claiming they would choose the look of a classic Mini Cooper and Ford Anglia over the cars on sale today.
What they failed to knowledge, however, is the much greater requirement for car safety under the latest laws, which go a long way to dictate the look of the latest models.
Despite this, two fifths felt older cars had more personality and the same proportion feel all modern cars look the same.
What are the features over-50 drivers want to see return to new car?
When asked to put their car designer caps on and list the features they want new cars to have to appeal to them, most looked to the past rather than thinking to the future.
Features drivers over the age of 50 say they want to see make a comeback
1. Ignition keys – 30%
2. CD players – 28%
3. Chrome plating – 23%
=4. Hood ornaments – 21%
=4. Wooden steering wheels – 21%
6. Bench seats – 14%
=7. Wooden body work – 12%
=7. Car window winders – 12%
9. Front fenders (i.e. above the wheel) – 9%
10. White wall tyres – 8%
Source: Saga Insurance poll of 6,500 drivers over 50 years of age
One quarter said more modern cars have too much plastic in them.
Ignition keys was the feature most wanted back – which isn’t a bad suggestion, given the recent spike in thefts of cars with keyless technology being hacked by skilled criminals.
CD players and chrome plating were also among the three top things that over 50s regret not seeing in modern cars.
Bonnet ornaments, widely overlooked these days due to the potential damage they could do to a pedestrian or cyclist in an accident, and wooden steering wheels were also near the top of the wish list of older motorists.
Jeremy Taylor, Saga Magazine’s motoring editor commented: ‘It’s clear from the research findings that far too many car manufacturers are seeing that 50 is a barrier when it comes to their marketing and design process.
‘While safety and reliability are key, for those of us that grew up in the heyday of design classics such as the Jaguar E-Type and Mini Cooper, today’s modern gadgets are a poor substitute for beauty and a fun drive.’
He went on to say that with over 50s accounting for an ‘overwhelming proportion’ of new car sales, manufacturers should make the needs of this generation a priority.
‘Many feel car-makers are out of touch with what their key customers actually want,’ he added.
The survey found that one in five drivers over 50 said they wanted new cars to have wooden steering wheels
These motorists have also called for the return of ignition keys, which many could support given the recent spike in thefts of vehicles with keyless technology
Chris Lofts, 65, of Badby, Northamptonshire, owns both an 11-year-old Porsche Boxster sports car and an almost new Mercedes Benz E-class estate – both of which he drives regularly.
He said: ‘Despite being retired I still drive around 240 miles a month, from family outings to everyday outings to the shops.
‘I far prefer older models, there’s just so much more connection between the car and road.
‘For me driving ought to be fun, and with new cars you feel removed from what you’re doing, with electronics taking away from the road feel.’
They might not want it but older motorists NEED technology to keep themselves (and the rest of us) safe
While motorists over the age of 50 said technology to help boost safety – such as lane assist and emergency braking – were not high on their list of priorities for a new car, all road users benefit from older drivers having these features.
According to the latest Department for Transport ‘Older Car Drivers Road Safety Factsheet‘ from 2016, casualties of older drivers (those aged 70+) increased by 22 per cent from 4,327 casualties in 1990 to 5,276 casualties in 2016.
The number of car drivers involved in collisions, by age, miles driven per person and the rate of car drivers involved in collisions per billion vehicle miles travelled
The report goes on to add that most of the causes of accidents involving older drivers are due to slower reaction times and reflexes, judgement errors and illnesses and disabilities.
A larger proportion of older car drivers are allocated factors relating to ‘driver failed to look properly’, ‘driver failed to judge other person’s path or speed’, ‘poor turn or manoeuvre’, ‘loss of control’ and ‘driver illness or disability, mental or physical’, the report explains.
The more active and passive safety technology built into new cars to make them safer is a benefit to all road users, no matter if some drivers claim they would prefer not to have them.
My chef husband gets half his salary via tips – can we claim child benefit?
My husband is a chef and receives less than 50 per cent of his earnings through salary.
The rest comes to him through a separate payment system called Tronc, which is made up from tips that are given to staff, with a share paid to chefs and kitchen staff too.
This amount is not guaranteed and as it comes from tips, he does not have to pay National Insurance on it.
Restaurant staff: Are tips treated as income when it comes to whether you qualify for child benefit payments? (Stock image)
Would this part of his earnings be taken into consideration for child benefit? If it isn’t then his income falls below the threshold at which child benefit is removed, but if it is then he will go over the threshold.
We have not registered for child benefit yet and so I am not sure what to do.
Tanya Jefferies, of This is Money, replies: We asked HMRC on your behalf and it confirmed that earnings through Tronc are counted for income tax.
Therefore, they are also treated as income when it comes to whether you qualify for child benefit payments or not – or in official jargon, whether you are subject to the ‘High Income Child Benefit Charge’.
But unfortunately, child benefit isn’t a simple issue and this isn’t the end of it.
We have run numerous stories about fallout from the rules and the unlucky families who have lost out financially or faced a bureaucratic nightmare over accidental errors.
Have you lost state pension by not signing up for child benefits or filling form in wrong?
If this has happened to you, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us your story.
So it’s worth explaining how ‘HICBC’ works, why it is hugely important to register for child benefit within three months of a birth even if you don’t qualify for payments, and a few other traps for the unwary.
What are the rules on qualifying for child benefit?
A controversial change in 2013 reduced the entitlement to child benefit for those earning £50,000-plus a year, or wiped it out entirely for those earning £60,000-plus.
This caused an outcry because it penalises families in which one parent earns just over £50,000, but those where both parents earn just under that amount still get child benefit paid in full.
Many couples who were unaware of the changes or the fine details then fell foul of the taxman.
Families complained of being hounded by the taxman for thousands of pounds in fines and demands for repayment. HMRC was slammed for its heavy-handed treatment of otherwise law-abiding taxpayers who made innocent mistakes.
It eventually cancelled penalties issued to 6,000 families for failing to notify it of income changes that meant they weren’t entitled to receive child benefit.
It reviewed 35,000 cases where a ‘failure to notify’ penalty had been sent, and reversed them when it decided customers may have a reasonable excuse.
But it refused to waive a £620 fine handed to one mother of three, who had faced a shock demand to stump up nearly £10,000 of penalties and repayments within a month, by a Christmas deadline of December 27.
The case highlights the pitfalls couples must navigate, because she originally thought her family still qualified for child benefit as her salary was below £50,000 when HICBC was introduced.
Her mistake, after only paying tax via her employer for decades and never filling in a tax return before, was not to realise company benefits should be included as part of her income.
Why you should ALWAYS register for child benefit
HMRC said in its response to your question that it always encourages those eligible to claim child benefit regardless of their income, to earn National Insurance credits and so a child automatically receives an NI number when they turn 16.
The significance of ‘to earn NI credits’ cannot be overstated.
To put this in layman’s terms, parents permanently lose the right to what can amount to tens of thousands of pounds in state pension credits if they don’t sign up for child benefit. (The NI number issue can easily be fixed later.)
This is Money is campaigning against the unfairness of people – mostly mums – potentially ending up worse off in retirement due to this error.
HMRC will only backdate credits by three months when you sign up late, so it is crucial to do it before your baby reaches that milestone.
Each annual NI credit is worth 1/35 of the value of the state pension – around £251 per year or £5,020 over the course of a typical 20-year retirement.
So those who had a child in 2013 and have not signed up for child benefit since then stand to lose £35,000 worth of credits, to date.
Parents are almost entirely in the dark about the link between claiming child benefit and their eventual state pension, according to research by HMRC itself.
HMRC has an internal working group looking at child benefit communications. It updated the child benefit form after the damning findings, and added a new flow chart, as you can see below.
But it still only makes a vague reference to filling in the form ‘to protect your state pension’ rather than explicitly warning your payments will be lower if you fail to so. Ideally, it should add this alert in red text so it can’t be missed.
Meanwhile, the Government’s own independent tax officials recently called on it to give state pension credits back to parents who have lost them due to confusion over a system that ‘appears illogical’.
High earners who want to avoid filling in tax returns and paying back child benefit, but who still want the valuable state pension credits, can tick a box on the form that opts them out of receiving the payments but signs them up for credits only.
Regarding your child’s NI number, if you register for child benefit they will automatically have it sent to them when they are 15 years and 9 months, so they can start work on their 16th birthday if they want.
But if they don’t get one, it’s just a matter of calling the Department of Work and Pensions which can sort it out.
Who should fill in the child benefit form?
It’s important a parent who is not working completes the form. The claimant gets the valuable credits towards the state pension, but these are worthless to someone employed and already paying enough National Insurance.
More than 200,000 families are believed to have made this mistake, and it can involve a lot of hassle to put it right.
More recently, HMRC has said that parents in this situation can disregard official time restrictions on applications to correct the record, provided they make a strong enough case.
One couple successfully used this loophole to win state pension credits worth tens of thousands of pounds, by arguing they were unaware his filling in the form could result in her losing huge sums in state pension in old age.
Congestion charge on both sides of the Severn bridges being considered
Milk recall: Aldi recalls Farmdale full cream milk
‘My daughter finds me mortifying’: Gwyneth Paltrow ‘failed as a mother’ by making Apple cry
Axon adds license plate recognition to police dash cams, but heeds ethics board’s concerns
Teri Hatcher posts bikini photo after 8-week fitness challenge
Nick Giannopoulos warns other comedians to stop using the word ‘wog’
Tech4 months ago
Axon adds license plate recognition to police dash cams, but heeds ethics board’s concerns
Entertainment2 months ago
Teri Hatcher posts bikini photo after 8-week fitness challenge
Entertainment3 months ago
Nick Giannopoulos warns other comedians to stop using the word ‘wog’
News2 months ago
69 Canadians to give up holidays at home, head to Australia to battle wildfires
News3 months ago
Police arrest one of two men wanted over hit-and-run death of mother
News2 weeks ago
Sydney crash: Four children dead, one injured while riding bikes
News1 month ago
Zoo visitor faces losing her arm after she was mauled by a jaguar
News2 weeks ago
al Qaeda leader lived in Arizona, arrested for murder: feds