'Reluctant' plans to increase toll at Shrewsbury's Kingsland Bridge on the table

Owners of a toll bridge in Shrewsbury say they are considering a 50 per cent increase in the river crossing charge - from 20p to 30p - to cover rising costs.

'The avenue leading into the Quarry', taken at The Kingsland Bridge in Shrewsbury by Robert Gwilliam
'The avenue leading into the Quarry', taken at The Kingsland Bridge in Shrewsbury by Robert Gwilliam

When floods have hit the county town in recent years the Kingsland Bridge and its 20p crossing toll have been the only route into the town centre.

James Hodgson, who has been director/secretary of Kingsland Toll Bridge since 2008, says ongoing maintenance costs as well as improvements are "likely to be reflected in a toll increase in the very near future."

The toll to cross Kingsland Bridge has been 20p since 2011, when it increased from 10p.

Mr Hodgson says the bridge was set up under an Act of Parliament in 1873. The operators normally have to apply to the Department for Transport to increase their tolls.

Old toll bridge photos

But in 2010, Mr Hodgson said, the bridge operators were given permission to increase the toll to 30p without further application.

It is a move that they have had in their back pocket for some time. But Mr Hodgson said that the pressures are building at the same time as there has been a reduction in the number of drivers using it.

“We have been obliged to carry out a considerable amount of repair work on the actual bridge itself,” he explained.

“We found the rosette nuts had cracked and stonework on the columns required repairing. In addition, drains need cleaning out every year.

“Trees have also been removed because of age and decay and we have invested in an annual tree maintenance contract. There is always something going on.”

Old toll bridge photos

As far as a potential increase from 20p to 30p goes Mr Hodgon said: "For various reasons of operation, we haven’t implemented that, but we are reluctantly having to consider making an increase in the near future, mainly to cover increased costs.”

Whenever Shrewsbury town centre floods, Kingsland Toll Bridge provides the only access in and out and is still the most direct route into town from the west of Shrewsbury.

On the occasion of the latest flood the company which continues to run the toll bridge was asked by the council – which views it as a main arterial road - for assistance in lifting the barriers to allow traffic to run freely.

For the half mile journey from Murivance to Kennedy Road across the toll bridge above the River Severn, motorists have been paying 20p since 2011, making it the second cheapest of the 26 toll bridges in the country, say the operators.

Old toll bridge photos

Even when taking into account the 20p toll, the bridge still offers motorists fuel savings compared with other routes into town.

There is also a daily parking charge of £5 which they describe as "one of the keenest parking rates in Shrewsbury, providing just a short walk into town for shoppers from Kingsland Road."

They have recently been seeing 23,000 vehicles cross the bridge every month but that was 26,000 a month before Covid-19 hit.

Old toll bridge photos

In its heyday it attracted as many as 40,000 vehicles a month.

Maintenance of the privately owned road, toll keeper’s house, repairs to the bridge, abutment, trees, barrier systems, street lighting and two sets of steps either side of the bridge requires funding, and the owners spent £21,000 in 2021 as well as £26,000 last year on maintenance.

Refurbishment of the toll-keeper’s house, now used as an office, has cost £40,000 and consideration is currently being given to upgrading the parking machines to offer cash and card options as well as replacing the barrier system.

Amazingly, to this day, the bridge still bears tribute to the original enterprise of the men who constructed it in 1881 and that it still manages to support the traffic of the 21st century.

And it hasn’t been without a little bit of drama over the years. On a Saturday evening in the Great War a flying ace Captain Corbett flew his Sopwith Pup under the bridge nine or ten times, cheered on by a large crowd.

It was described as an ‘impressive feat’ considering that the river was bordered by well-remembered high lime trees.

Toll-keeper Andy Cross

If and when the toll is increased the person who will be toll-keeper is newly-appointed Andy Cross, who joins after 30 years as a member of the cabin crew with British Airways. He is only the sixth person to hold the post in the last two decades.

On taking up the intriguing role, he said today: “The position is very much a one-off. I was on the verge of retirement, coming up 61, and wanted to keep myself occupied for part of the week. In fact, I’m the toll-keeper for four days a week between 8.30am and 11am.

“The realisation is, because it is a private road, it should be maintained, and the customers who park on the road and use the toll bridge expect it to be kept clean and tidy. It is important to keep a close connection with the local residents.”

Andy, who was a purser and steward during his long service with British Airways, is married with two sons and lives in Grange Road, nearby to the toll bridge.

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