We will add to these FAQ’s as necessary. If your question is not covered by our FAQ’s, or you would like further information, please contact us.
Why is Whitchurch Bridge still a privately-owned Toll Bridge?
When the first Whitchurch Bridge was built in the 18th century it was quite common for Bridges and roads to be funded and built privately under private Acts of Parliament, with Tolls being charged for using them. Most have passed into public ownership, and there are now just eleven ancient Bridges that remain privately-owned and Tolled.
Whitchurch Bridge has been owned since 1792 by The Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge (commonly known as the Whitchurch Bridge Company), which has a duty under the Whitchurch Bridge Act 1792 and the Whitchurch Bridge Act 1988 to maintain the Bridge “forever in good and sufficient repair” and to replace it if it becomes unsafe.
Shouldn’t the Bridge be taken over by the Council?
Under current legislation, the ownership of Whitchurch Bridge could only change if a transfer arrangement were agreed between the Whitchurch Bridge Company and a prospective purchaser – it cannot be “taken over” without the agreement of the Whitchurch Bridge Company.
Neither Oxfordshire County Council nor South Oxfordshire District Council have expressed any interest in purchasing the Bridge from the Whitchurch Bridge Company. If either Council took ownership of the Bridge they would incur the liability for operating, maintaining and replacing the Bridge: this is a liability they have indicated they do not wish to take on. It should be noted that there are several examples where a local authority has taken over a Tolled Bridge but not removed the Tolls, as they face exactly the same issues and decisions concerning reconstruction and funding as does the Whitchurch Bridge Company currently.
The Bridge is not classed as a “highway”, and Oxfordshire County Council has no powers under the Highways Act 1980 to take over the Bridge or remove the Tolls.
The Bridge (updated 4th January 2016)
- Who advises you on Bridge engineering matters?
We appointed Peter Brett Associates of Reading to act as our engineering consultants as from January 2016. They will arrange and supervise regular inspections of the Bridge in accordance with Highways standards to monitor its condition and advise on remedial work. Until January 2016 our engineering consultants were Oxfordshire County Council Bridges department: this contract was terminated by mutual agreement, as reductions in engineering resources meant that they were no longer able to advise the Company.
- How long will the newly reconstructed Bridge last?
The reconstructed Bridge has a design life of 100 years. It complies with current Highway standards, with dispensation on specific elements (eg the parapets) to comply with its listed status.
- Is the newly reconstructed Bridge the same size as the previously?
Yes. The river headroom, road width, footway width and parapet height above the footway are all the same as previously.
Bridge Cards and Concessionary Tolls
- What are Bridge Cards?
Bridge Cards are part of a computer-based system supplied by Came (formerly known as Parkare, and before that Alfia) in 2006 which enables the Whitchurch Bridge Company to offer a concessionary Toll rate to regular Bridge users in an efficient manner. Bridge users who purchase a Bridge Card Pack get a proximity card known as a Bridge Card which is pre-loaded with cash credit for crossings at a discounted rate.
- How can I obtain a Bridge Card?
All Bridge users in Class 1 vehicles (ie vehicles under 3.5 tonnes mgw) can buy a Bridge Card Pack from the Toll Collector at the Toll Booth for £30. This includes a £10 deposit for the Bridge card and £20 of credit for crossings, which at the current rate gives 50 crossings.
- Why do I have to pay a deposit for my Bridge Card?
Each Bridge Card currently costs the Company more than £9 to purchase, and we need to offer an incentive to Bridge Card users to take good care of their Bridge Cards so that they are not mislaid or accidentally damaged, so that they can be topped up and re-used time and time again. 55% of Bridge Cards issued have not been used since the Bridge re-opened in September 2014.
Bridge Cards initially carried a deposit of £3 – this lower deposit reflected the lower purchase cost of the initial large batch of Bridge Cards, and the Company’s policy of offering a significant subsidy on the true cost of Bridge Cards when they were first introduced in 2006.
Bridge Cards sold on and from Friday 9th March 2007 carried a deposit of £5, which was less than the cost price.
As Bridge Cards continued to be lost, the deposit was increased to £10 for Bridge Cards numbered from 2274 8201 sold on and from Wednesday 9th June 2010.
Please see FAQ 3.11 if you wish to return your Bridge Card and reclaim your deposit.
- How do I use my Bridge Card?
You drive up to the Toll Booth window as now, and stop. You hold your Bridge Card close to the card reader under the window sill, to the right of the LED’s. The card reader will bleep when it has read your Bridge Card, and the LED’s change from red to green. The system checks your Bridge Card against its database, and if you have some credit left on your Account the barrier will rise automatically.
The system debits the cost of the crossing from your Account at the discounted rate applicable on the date of your crossing, and the display next to the Toll Booth window shows how many pre-paid crossings you have left. Even if you swipe your Bridge Card more than once, and you hear more than one bleep, the system will only debit one crossing from your Bridge Card Account.
When you have driven away the barrier will close automatically behind you.
- What happens when I use up the the credit on my Bridge Card?
You can top up your Bridge Card with £20 cash or £21 cheque (payable to The Whitchurch Bridge Company) with the Toll Collector at the Toll Booth when you have 50 crossings or fewer remaining.
When you arrive at the Booth you should swipe your Bridge Card in the normal way and hand £20 cash or £21 cheque to the Toll Collector. He/she will use a touch screen computer to credit your Account with £20, and when the transaction has been completed the “number of uses remaining” on the display unit in front of you will increase by 50 crossings. The Toll Collector will hand you an itemised receipt for your top-up.
Please retain your receipt and check that your Bridge Card has been correctly topped up before driving away.
- Why do you ask that I register my Bridge Card?
We ask that you register your Bridge Card so that:
- we can return the £3, £5 or £10 deposit on the Bridge Card to the registered owner if the Card is returned to us
- we can “stop” the Bridge Card if the registered owner reports to us that it has been lost (see FAQ 9).
We will also use postcode data to get a better understanding of the traffic flows over the Bridge, to help us plan. The data will be analysed and presented in a way that does not identify any individual Bridge Card registered owner or his/her Bridge Card usage.
The Whitchurch Bridge Company is registered under the Data Protection Act. We will not pass or disclose information on any registered user, or his/her Bridge Card usage, to any third party for marketing or any other purposes.
We will disclose Bridge Card usage information to the registered owner of that Bridge Card only, and not to any other person or organisation.
- What happens if I don’t want to buy a Bridge Card?
You will be able to pay a cash Toll.
- Are Bridge Cards available for Class 2 vehicles (ie over 3.5 tonnes mgw)?
No. Concessionary Tolls for Class 2 vehicles are available only by purchasing books of pre-paid tickets.
- What happens if I lose my Bridge Card?
Lost Card has been registered by you
If you had registered your lost Bridge Card, you should let us know as soon as possible either by email or in writing to the Bridge Manager at the Toll Booth, with your name and address and, if known, the Bridge Card number. We will then put a “stop” on your lost Bridge Card.
You will lose your deposit on the lost Bridge Card and you will need to purchase another Bridge Card Pack at £30. When you register your new Bridge Card, we will transfer the “uses left” from your lost Bridge Card to your new Bridge Card. To enable this transfer to take place, please put a note in with your new Bridge Card Registration Form telling us you’ve lost your previous Bridge Card, quoting its number if possible, and asking for the unused credit to be transferred to your new Card.
Lost Card has not been registered by you
If you had not registered your lost Bridge Card, you will need to purchase a new Bridge Card Pack in the normal way. You will lose the deposit on the lost Bridge Card and the value of the outstanding credit on it.
- My Bridge Card has split in two – will you replace it free of charge?
We do not replace Bridge Cards which have been accidentally damaged (see FAQ 3.3). We will, however, transfer any unused credit to a newly-purchased Bridge Card provided that the new Bridge Card is registered.
To enable this transfer to take place, please enclose your damaged Bridge Card (the serial number of which must be legible) with your new Bridge Card Registration Form, together with a note asking for the unused credit to be transferred to your new Bridge Card.
- I no longer cross Whitchurch Bridge on a regular basis and wish to return my Bridge Card. How do I get my deposit back?
We will return the deposit you paid if your Bridge Card is returned in good condition. We will also refund you the value of any unused crossings. Please download and complete a Bridge Card Return Form, and return it to us.
- Will the Bridge Card discounted Toll always be significantly less than the Cash Toll? (updated 30th July 2015)
Although the Company is not obliged to offer discounts on its cash Toll, it is a strategic objective of the Company to do so, in order to encourage the use of Bridge Cards and thus reduce operating costs. The Bridge Card Toll will not exceed 40p until 12th August 2016 or later, and will not exceed 45p thereafter until a new Toll Application is submitted and approved.
- What is the geographical spread of Bridge Card holders?
We carried out this anlaysis in 2010. We’ll repeat this exercise sometime in 2016.
- Can I allow other people to use my Bridge Card? (added 29th September 2015)
Yes, but we do not allow “pass backs” – ie a driver swiping his/her Bridge Card, and then asking the Toll Collector to take the Card and pass it to a following driver to swipe. This restriction is necessary to ensure that the Bridge Card Daily Cap concession is not used in a way that was not intended. This is an amendment to paragraph 2.4 of the Bridge Card User Guide.