Bridge over River Thames sold for 1 million pounds

AP News
Posted: Dec 03, 2009 1:57 PM

A toll bridge built in 1769 across the River Thames sold for more than 1 million pounds ($1.66 million) at an auction Thursday.

The Swinford bridge brings in about 190,000 pounds (US$320,000) in toll payments from about 4 million vehicle crossings a year.

Due to a quirk in British law, toll revenue collected from the picturesque stone structure about 65 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of London can be collected tax-free.

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 "his heirs and assignees forever."

Residents have complained that the archaic toll rules create serious traffic jams. They had asked Oxfordshire County Council to buy the bridge and abolish the tolls, but the local government said in a statement that it could not afford to.

Neil Mackilligin at London auction house Allsop, which sold the bridge, said its new owner did not want his name to be disclosed. Mackilligin said the new owner was based in the U.K. but did not live near the bridge.