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Highways England


Reducing disruption for road users during complex changes on the Severn Crossing

We helped Highways England manage two complex projects to take responsibility for bridge and tolling infrastructure, operations and maintenance on the Severn Crossing between England and Wales, and then removal of tolling infrastructure and operations. Our expert support meant millions of vehicles could continue their journeys on one of the busiest parts of the UK road network. The closure is estimated to save the average road user up to £1,400 a year and deliver a £100 million boost to the Welsh economy.


Key successes

  • successful close-out of a £1 billion public-private partnership (PPP)

  • smooth transfer of infrastructure assets, technology, processes and 180 staff

  • procurement of 60+ contracts for future operations

  • 34,000 pre-payment TAG accounts closed and refunds issued


Around 25 million journeys a year are made on the Severn Crossing between England and Wales. In recent years, there have been big changes to the way the bridges are managed –first, the transfer of bridge and tolling operations and maintenance from private concession to public control. Then, the removal of the toll infrastructure altogether.

Keeping the Crossing open and traffic flowing throughout these changes was vital. Any disruption meant queues would build up quickly, with a severe knock-on impact on the road network in Wales and the South West. We provided expert support to keep road users moving smoothly and deliver the ambition for toll-free travel between the two countries.


Moving the tolling operation over to public control was complex and risky. It involved transferring infrastructure assets, technology, processes and 180 staff to Highways England, establishing new contracts with 60+ suppliers and closing out a £1 billion public-private partnership (PPP) contract. Many of the systems in operation had passed the point of obsolescence, so there was a serious risk they might fail at the point of transition. Furthermore, the whole transition took place in the glare of intense media and political interest – and within severe time constraints.

We provided a wide range of expertise, including project management, business design, procurement and business transformation, to overcome these challenges. This included supporting commercial negotiations around the closure of the PPP concession and developing options for the future operation of the Crossing and management of the tolls. We supported the transfer of bridge assets, staff, business IT and tolling technology, and made sure that card payments at the crossing would continue to work after the switch-over ensuring service continuity for the customer. We also helped procure the new contracts needed for future operations.

As a result of our work, the bridge moved smoothly under the control of Highways England as scheduled. Less than a year later, a new government policy to end tolls on the Severn Crossing presented new challenges. These included the closure of 34,000 TAG accounts that let road users pay their tolls in advance and the need for a widespread communications campaign to raise awareness of the infrastructure changes at the crossings.


We worked with Highways England to devise a strategy to close down the accounts, manage outstanding debts and organise the return of 100,000 TAG units. We also developed and implemented a public communications campaign to let road users and stakeholders know about the changes.

Ending tolls smoothly and with minimal disruption to traffic helped reinforce Highway England’s reputation as an effective manager of the strategic road network. The removal also delivered a positive outcome for people travelling across the Severn, saving the average user up to £1,400 a year and delivering a £100 million boost to the Welsh economy.

The PA team brought expertise, structure, and pace to the project, which was delivered within a complex stakeholder environment and with challenging time constraints. PA’s support has been vital to the end-to-end design and delivery of the project, enabling a smooth transition of people, assets, processes, services, IT and technology.

Elliot Shaw,
Strategy & Planning Executive Director, Highways England.

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Charlie Henderson

PA transport, travel and logistics expert

Richard Sallnow

PA transport expert

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