Cob at Porthmadog
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Toll road nationalised

The Cob, a man made causeway, which has carried travellers over the mouth of the Glaslyn River at Porthmadog for nearly 200 years, was nationalised by the Welsh Assembly last year.  

cob porthmadog arial.jpg (53620 bytes)    cob tolls.jpg (42495 bytes)

Built by William Maddocks in 1811, the Cob and its round tollhouse are important landmarks on the A487 coast road.  It is often the site of long queues in summer as motorists wait to pay the five pence toll.  The toll was fixed by the Act of Parliament that authorised the original construction.

The Cob, which also carries a cycle path and the Ffestiniog light railway, was originally one of many privately owned toll roads in Wales.   For most of its existence Maddocks and his descendants collected the profits, but 25 years ago a local group, the Rebecca Trust[1], purchased it, and have been distributing the money they raise to local charities.  Now the Welsh Assembly has brought it. 

Many people have welcomed the removal of the toll as the culmination of an historic struggle for free, i.e. tax-funded, roads.  

iGreens prefer to regard it as the last gasp of a failed nationalisation programme, which despite strangling Snowdonia in concrete, still leaves tourists standing in queues and prevents locals going about their business. 

Holiday road congestion is an inevitable result of free roads.   The toll is only partly to blame; congestion in Porthmadog causes queues as well. There are only two real alternatives.  

Building six lane motorways around the coast and across the mountains.  This will work fine, until traffic increases in response.    

Sell the roads to private companies and allow them to charge the market price to use them - likely to be rather above 5p for day trippers, but less per trip for locals who buy annual passes.  As the market clears some people will decide to travel by bus or train, some will stay home and dig the garden, and traffic will flow freely.   A healthy balance between giving tourists access and looking after the unspoiled beauty of Snowdonia will be maintained.   

Thank you to Gareth Lewis for belatedly alerting us to this news.  

NOTE - those who visit the old toll house at the southern end of the causeway might be interested to know that one of the best British sites for finding fossil trilobites is only a mile or so away.  Click here

[1] The Rebecca Trust was named after a gang of 19th century Welsh hooligans, the Rebecca Rioters, who objected to paying turnpike tolls.  Although they had not built any roads themselves, they threatened toll keepers and vandalised toll booths until the politicians of the day caved in, expropriated the turnpike owners property and created free roads by fiat.  Some people still applaud what happened even as they complain at the pollution that is a direct result of failing to respect private property.



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Last modified: September 26, 2006