The Humber Bridge (Debts) Bill will enable the government to write off or suspend parts of the Humber Bridge debt, the exact amounts of which will be determined once the legislation is in place.
Roads minister John Watts said: 'We have long accepted that the bridge is an exceptional case. A package that involved writing off and suspending those parts of the debt needed to be put together.
'This government legislation will help to provide for a long term solution to the debt problem.'
- The Humber Bridge (opened in 1981) was built and financed in accordance with legislation promoted by the local authorities and is managed by a Board drawn from local authorities in Humberside.
Hull City Council has the majority of members and its local taxpayers stand to finance the bulk of any deficits which cannot be met out of tolls.
The Bridge was financed by borrowing from the transport secretary and the Public Works Loans Board. It took longer and cost more to build than expected and traffic has been lower than forecast, largely because population growth expected for South Humberside when the Bridge was planned never materialised.
Toll income has not covered all the interest on the debt and, in the past, unpaid interest been capitalised (added to the debt). The opening debt rose from £151m to £439m in March 1992. As a result of the payment of grant to meet unpaid interest charges the debt has stabilised at £435m.
The last toll increase at the Humber Bridge was in August 1989. A private bill promoted by the bridge board to index those tolls failed at the end of the last year. The bridge board now have in hand an application to increase tolls under the existing legislation.