Severn bridges toll scrapped allowing motorists to cross for free

Motorists can now cross the two Severn bridges for free for the first time in 52 years as the tolls have officially been scrapped.

The abolition of the crossing fee - which was confirmed earlier this year - comes in time for the thousands expected to make their journeys home for the festive period.

Experts have estimated that regular commuters will save around £1,400 a year from the removal of the toll, while some businesses could pocket around £55,000 in transport costs.

However, the Road Haulage Association has 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. 

Free to use: Motorists no longer have to pay a fee to cross the Severn Bridges from Monday 17 December

Charges on the original Severn Crossing have been in place since 1966, when the fee stood at two shillings and sixpence – the equivalent of 12.5p in decimal currency today.

They were then introduced on the second crossing – renamed the Prince of Wales Bridge in April this year – when it opened 30 years later in 1996.

Ministers said scrapping of the tolls would provide an immediate benefit of over £100million per year for Wales, and over a billion pounds of economic benefit over the next decade.

Chris Graying, Secretary of State for Transport, said the abolition would save regular bridge users £1,400 a year.

The final driver to pay to cross over from England to Wales on Sunday was Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns.

Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns said scrapping the tolls would see regular commuters save £1,400 per year. He was the last driver to pay the toll on the evening of 16 December

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

'The end of the tolls is a major milestone for the economies of south Wales and south west of England, and will remove historic barriers between communities,' he said.

'Scrapping the tolls means an end to generations of people paying to simply cross the border and delivering this has been one of my key aims as Welsh Secretary.

'A week before Christmas drivers will no longer have to pay every time they cross the border, meaning more money in their pockets, helping them with the cost of living and leaving them with and more cash to spend in their local areas.'

Chris Graying, Secretary of State for Transport, added: 'We made a commitment in the manifesto to deliver free crossings over the Severn and that's exactly what we're delivering.

'This move will put £1,400 a year in the pockets of thousands of hard-working motorists and help transform the economy in the south west and South Wales creating new opportunities and helping drive future growth.'

Gregg Griffiths, managing director of transport business Collier Haulage, said the scrapping of the toll would save his business up to £55k a year 

Gregg Griffiths, managing director of transport business Collier Haulage, based in Pontypool in South Wales, said the abolition of toll fees represents a 'big saving' for his business. 

Crossing the Severn bridges from England into South Wales in a lorry costs £16.70, with fees only applying in the westbound direction - as they do for car drivers. 

Mr Griffiths predicted the move will reduce costs to his firm by around £50,000 to £55,000 per year.

'It will go straight on the bottom line,' he said. 'We probably cross it 10 times or more a day.'

However, some have warned that the removal of the toll could increase traffic and costs to businesses.

Charges on the original Severn Crossing have been in place since 1966, when the fee stood at two shillings and sixpence – the equivalent of 12.5p in decimal currency today

The two bridges link Wales and England via the M4 and M48 motorways

Richard Burnett, chief executive at the Road Haulage Association, said additional congestion at the crossing could means increase in transportation costs that would then be passed on to customers.

He said: 'We welcome the abolition of tolls as operators are already working to incredibly tight margins.'

Hauliers 'have no choice but to pass toll prices on to their customers,' he added. 'They then have to pass it on to theirs – everybody pays.'

However it is 'essential that traffic remains free flowing', he said, adding: 'Congestion as a result of increased vehicle numbers will quickly cancel out any advantages resulting from a toll-free crossing.

'The abolition of tolls on the Severn Bridge will inevitably increase the volume of traffic on this particular route.'

Earlier this year, more than 30,000 people signed a petition against the Second Severn Crossing being renamed after the Prince of Wales.

The new title, which has the agreement of the Queen and Prime Minister Theresa May, was to recognise Charles' 70th birthday year and 60 years since he became the Prince of Wales.

The Road Haulage Association has warned that an increase in congestion at the bridges could result in higher transportation costs for businesses, but supported the abolition of the toll

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December 17, 2018

Sources: Daily Mail

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  • Four things to consider when picking funds in a 401(k) plan

    Four things to consider when picking funds in a 401(k) plan

    to a 401(k), 403(b) or similar employer-sponsored plan are often plagued by this question: How do I go about evaluating and selecting which funds to invest in.</p><p>In some cases, the research shows that investors contribute equal amounts to all the funds on their menu of options. In other cases, investors – overwhelmed by the number of choices – choose not to contribute to their retirement plan. And in still other cases, according to new research, retirement plan participants use something called alphabeticity to select funds.</p><p>Using a proprietary database of 401(k) plans, researchers recently showed that alphabeticity – when fund names are listed alphabetically on an investment menu – significantly biases participants’ investment allocation decisions.</p><p>This as well as other factors that cause irrational investment in defined contribution savings plans are of great concern, the researchers concluded in their paper, "Alphabeticity Bias in 401(k) Investing." </p><p>“The paper confirms what many would suspect,” says Stacy Schaus, the founder and CEO of Schaus Group, a retirement consulting firm. “Participants choices are often irrational and/or uninformed.”</p><p>The research also suggests that a “more strategic ordering of funds could result in favorable outcomes for participants,” wrote Jesse Itzkowitz, a vice president at the Ipsos Behavioral Science Center, who co-authored "Alphabeticity Bias in 401(k) Investing." </p><p>For instance, if funds were listed in ascending order by expense ratio rather than alphabetically, then the plan design feature would help reduce investment fees paid by plan participants affected by alphabeticity bias.</p><p>In the absence of more strategic ordering of funds by plan administrators and plan providers, how might people in an employer-sponsored retirement plan go about choosing funds?</p><p>Itzkowitz says people should sort their choices according to what’s most important to them. “For example, a prudent strategy is looking for funds with minimal fees,” he says.”</p><p>Likewise, if you think that five-year returns are most important, sort by that criteria first. </p><p>People can also improve their ability to pick the best option by making sure that they are alert and focused, says Itzkowitz. “To do that, they should save important decisions, like how to invest their retirement savings, for when they are well rested, after a good meal, and before they done a lot of other difficult decision making,” he says. “Research has shown that when we are tired, both physically and mentally, all of our biases, not just alphabeticity, become more pronounced.”</p><p>In some cases, when plan participants are automatically enrolled in a 401(k), they are also placed into what are called qualified default investment alternatives or QDIAs. If that happens to you, consider sticking with them.</p><p>There are four types of QDIAs: a lifecycle or target-date fund; a professionally managed account; a balanced fund; and a capital preservation product such as a stable-value fund.</p><p>“We know that defaults can be very helpful,” Schaus says.</p><p>QDIAs, however, are targeted to the average worker without regard to their personal needs and circumstances. Given that each person has different goals and resources, what's needed is more customized and personal advice. And that's especially true as one gets older, as financial assets increase in value and as financial affairs become more complicated.</p><p>“The closer to retirement, the more important comprehensive planning becomes as participants are likely to have more outside assets, varying risk preferences and health considerations,” says Schaus. “Decisions also matter more when the participant has more at risk — accumulated balances and less human capital," she says. "Working with a financial planner to tailor the allocation within a defined contribution plan with a comprehensive view and objectives in mind would be ideal.”</p>

    1 February 07, 2019
  • Chipotle drive-thrus? Yes, that&apos;s a thing &ndash;  and they&apos;re called Chipotlanes

    Chipotle drive-thrus? Yes, that&apos;s a thing &ndash; and they&apos;re called Chipotlanes

    ive-thrus, called Chipotlanes, in 2019. </p><p>The company made the announcement during its fourth-quarter earnings call on Wednesday.</p><p>The exact locations haven't been released yet. However, the chain reported that the 10 locations tested in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia have been successful.</p><p>But burrito buyer, beware: You can't actually order food at a Chipotlane. There's no speaker to give a staffer your order, like you'd find at traditional drive-thrus. At the Chipotle version – which is billed as a "mobile order pick-up lane" – you have to mobile-order and then you go to the Chipotlane to pick up your food.</p><p>"You never have to get out of your car. You order from your app, pull up to the window and out comes Chipotle," CEO Brian Niccol said.</p><p>Customers also may place their order via the corporate website.</p><p>What enables the chain to accommodate the extra ordering via the car window is the second area in the restaurants where employees prepare customers' food – what Chipotle calls a "make line."</p><p>Niccol previously ran Taco Bell, a chain known for its vibrant drive-thru culture, but Chipotle's stab at it predates his time in the new position. The first Chipotle drive-thru window opened in Pickerington, Ohio, in January 2018 and Niccol took over the helm of Chipotle two months later.</p><p>"Consumers' No. 1 barrier to Chipotle is access," he said. "One way to access is to not have to have people get out of their cars."</p>

    1 February 07, 2019
  • House prices slump £6k in a month and rose only 0.8% in 2018, latest index finds

    House prices slump £6k in a month and rose only 0.8% in 2018, latest index finds

    st year according to the latest Halifax house price index, which also revealed the second largest monthly drop in values since September 2010. </p><p>Across the country, annual price growth slowed from 1.3 per cent in December to 0.8 per cent in January, one of Britain's biggest lenders says. </p><p>Down: House prices have dropped £6,000 in a month, Halifax data shows</p><p>The average house price now stands at £223,691, more than £6,000 lower than December, meaning prices have now fallen in four months out of the last six. </p><p>However, December did see 102,330 home sales, which means 100,000 homes or more have now been sold for the fourth consecutive month.</p><p>Revising his bold projection from last month, Russell Galley, managing director at Halifax, said price growth is now expected 'to remain subdued in the near-term'.</p><p>He said: 'Attention will no doubt be drawn towards the monthly fall of 2.9 per cent from December to January, the second time in three years that we have seen a drop as a new year starts.</p><p>'However, the bigger picture is actually that house prices have seen next to no movement over the last year, with annual growth of just 0.8 per cent.</p><p>'This could either be viewed as a story of resilience, as prices have held up well in the face of significant economic uncertainty, or as a continuation of the slow growth we've witnessed over recent years.'</p><p>House prices dropped nearly 3% last month after a surprisingly strong December. Halifax has now revised down its prediction for house price growth in the near future</p><p>He added: 'There's no doubt that the next year will be important for the housing market with much of the immediate focus on what impact Brexit may have.</p><p>'However, more fundamentally it is key underlying factors of supply and demand that will ultimately shape the market.'</p><p>According to Halifax, the quarterly figure provides the clearest indication of overall market trends, 'smoothing out the monthly volatility caused by the reduced number of monthly transactions used to calculate all house price indices'.</p><p>On that basis, quarterly prices are down 0.6 per cent, which compares to a 0.3 per cent fall in December and 1.1 per cent drop in November.  </p><p>The figures are based on its own mortgage approval data. </p><p>Howard Archer, chief economic adviser at EY ITEM Club, said: 'The Halifax reported house prices plunged 2.9 per cent month-on-month in January, which was the second largest monthly drop since September 2010.'</p><p>He said January's drop was 'clearly partly a correction' after house prices surprisingly spiked 2.5 per cent month-on-month in December.</p><p>Mr Archer added: 'Caution over making major purchases will likely be magnified in the near-term by current heightened uncertainties over Brexit.'</p><p>Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former residential chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said: 'What we are seeing on the ground is the release of some pent-up demand prompting more listings, viewings and offers over the past few weeks than we dared hope for.</p><p>'However, interest is very patchy and real value must be perceived, otherwise little market change will result.</p><p>'Looking forward, we do not expect any significant improvement at least until the odds on a Brexit deal improve.'</p><p>Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: 'Flat growth is probably the best we can hope for given the current tricky political situation we find ourselves in.</p><p>'Brexit has caused a slowdown in purchase activity as would-be buyers sit on their hands, waiting for the outcome before committing to something as major as buying a new home.</p><p>'Fewer transactions has meant less business for lenders, yet they remain keen to lend.'</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p>Your comment will be posted to MailOnline as usual.</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p> We will automatically post your comment and a link to the news story to your Facebook timeline at the same time it is posted on MailOnline. To do this we will link your MailOnline account with your Facebook account. We’ll ask you to confirm this for your first post to Facebook.</p><p>Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday &amp; Metro Media Group</p>

    1 February 07, 2019

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