Our Humber Bridge
Campaign to maximise the benefit of the Humber Bridge for the economic and social welfare of the Humber region and UK Plc.
Regional MPs, Local Government and Business Leaders working with residents have long campaigned to remove the tolls for the benefit of the regional economy and that of UK Plc. The Government has not been keen to remove the debt of around £330m. Without a significant shift in approach the debt will not be repaid for generations, if ever. In the meantime it has been independently 'proved' that the Humber Region's economy (consequently that of the UK) is held back through excessive tolls by a significantly greater sum than is repaid in interest to central government. It is therefore a net liability to UK Plc. Mechanisms for reducing the debt have been considered and refused to date. The Humber has tremendous potential for growth, particularly in the next generation renewables and associated manufacturing sectors - growth areas highlighted by the government and the region.
There is an alternative approach to the traditional method of private and public sector regional Leaders pleading for the debt burden and tolls to be reduced. It is proposed that the Humber Bridge (its debt) is purchased - for £100m including costs - under a strictly controlled regime.
Through a combination of:
- the up-front payment
- the use of that payment over a couple of parliaments for investment or reduced borrowing,
- the tax income from toll costs being reinvested in the region
- the increased economic activity, investment, employment etc. raising direct and indirect tax income and
- the reduced dependence on central state investment in economic, social and welfare initiatives,
the return to government will be greater than that received in continuing interest repayments under the current regime.
The current tolls would continue for c. 8 years to pay off the £100m and maintain the structure. Thereafter the bridge would be required to be operated on a maintenance only funding budget for the economic good of the region and UK Plc. This could be via a Community Interest Company structure, the existing Bridge Board or other Partnership, perhaps under the emerging LEP system. The current funding structure passes the future responsibility to Local Authorities should the debt ever be repaid. The region's economy can't wait in perpetuity. The UK is losing out.
The £100m will be raised through traditional funding or a combination including regional pension funds, corporate and private investment. The support of regional local authorities indemnifying the toll income that guarantees the loan repayment is key to the proposal. On this basis funding will be secured and has been market tested.
Businesses would therefore be encouraged to invest in the Humber region due to the certainty of cost effective cross Humber travel in the shorter term. Planning and licensing approvals are already in place for new port and renewables sector complexes on both the north and south banks. The government will receive full value in the short term for an asset that actually has a net annual cost attached to it when the potential tax income and economic activity is considered alongside the current debt interest receipts. The long standing bridge debt burden can be resolved to the government's immense credit, made possible by an imaginative approach by regional local authorities acting in unison with regional business.
Furthermore, the negative response to the recent deferral of work on major highway infrastructure projects in the region would be transformed. There is also the flexibility within the financial model to immediately support public transport and health related journey expenditure as sought by local authority leaders.