Toll bridge over Thames up for sale in Britain

AP News
Posted: Nov 18, 2009 10:37 AM

A toll bridge built in 1769 across the River Thames will be auctioned next month, offering buyers a tax-free investment with a bit of historic charm.

The Swinford bridge brings in about 190,000 pounds (US$320,000) in toll payments from about 4 million vehicle crossings a year, and the bridge's owner can pocket all the income without paying tax.

The picturesque bridge in Oxfordshire, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) northwest of London, has a suggested price of 1.65 million pounds ($2.77 million). The property comes with a stone toll cottage and acres (hectares) of land.

Surveying company Humberts Leisure called it a "budget-beating investment."

The bridge is one of Britain's few remaining in private hands. It has been free of income tax since the 18th century, when Parliament granted ownership of the bridge and its tolls to the Earl of Abingdon and "to his heirs and assignees for ever."

The bridge is now owned by a family living nearby, surveyor Charlie Mason said.

Residents have complained that the archaic toll rules create serious traffic jams along the busy route and amount to "highway robbery." They have petitioned for the local government council to buy the bridge and scrap the tolls.

Currently car drivers must pay five pence (8 U.S. cents) to pass the bridge, while lorries pay 50 pence (80 U.S. cents).