Leading article: A golden bridge

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The Independent Online

The good folk of Cumbria may be mourning the loss of their bridges as they take hour-long detours to cross the rivers, but down in Oxfordshire they know how to make money out of need. The Swinford toll bridge, which crosses the Thames near Eynsham, has just fetched a total of more than £1m at auction.

Little wonder when the operation is virtually tax free thanks to an Act of Parliament of 1767 granting its owner, the Earl of Abingdon, special status. At 5p a car and 50p a truck, the bridge fetches some £190,000 in revenue from the 4 million vehicles who use it to get in and out of Oxford. Which as they say is a "tidy earner" for the new owner, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Can we suggest the pseudonym "Charon", after the ferryman of Hades who charged a silver coin to carry the souls of the deceased across the River Styx? Those who didn't pay up were condemned to wander the shores for a century. Just as well the owner doesn't live locally.

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