The Second Severn Crossing has been renamed after the Prince of Wales as a new poll suggested more than half of the Welsh people want a different name for the bridge.
Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall unveiled a plaque to formally mark the change of name after the couple visited the bridge’s toll plaza and met staff.
But the decision to change the name to The Prince of Wales Bridge has proven controversial, angering some who said there should have been a public consultation over the move.
Out of those questioned, 27% supported renaming the crossing the Prince of Wales Bridge, while 19% did not know.
The Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns said in a speech at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport that he hoped the removal of the bridge tolls at the end of the year would bring a financial boost and bring communities on both sides of the Severn estuary closer together.
Mr Cairns said later, when asked to comment on the controversy surrounding the renaming: “If you take any international study, one was recently conducted by the Welsh Government on the brand of Wales, how that was seen and known internationally.
“Well the Prince of Wales is one of the most prominent figures that points to Wales, and therefore I couldn’t think, in this significant anniversary year, of a better title of someone bridging two communities in his 70th birthday year.”
The bridge was renamed in Charles’ honour to mark his 70th birthday year, 60 years since he was first named the Prince of Wales, as well as the approaching 50th anniversary of the prince being formally invested with the title in 1969.
In his speech to the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, business people and civic leaders from both sides of the Severn estuary and others, Mr Cairns highlighted the work of Charles’ charities in Wales.
The Welsh Secretary mentioned the heir to the throne’s Prince’s Trust, which helps disadvantaged youngsters and Prime Cymru’s efforts supporting older workers starting their own businesses.
He said: “Over all these years, wherever I have been in Wales, my soul has never ceased to be stirred, and moved, by the majesty of her landscapes, by the richness and poignancy of her history, by the beauty of her ancient and precious language ‘yr iaith Gymraeg’ which I did my best to study for a period at Aberystwyth very nearly 50 years ago under the patient tutorship of the distinguished scholar Teddy Millward.
“But most of all I have come to love and admire the character of her people: their passion, tenacity; their sense of fair play – ‘chwarae teg’ – and, of course, their humour.”
After reading a quote, in Welsh, from poet T Gwynn Jones, he added: “It is, therefore, my particular hope that the Crossing’s new name will bring to mind all those who, over these long centuries, have borne that ancient title Tywysogion Cymru and the different traditions and heritages that they represent.”
The Second Severn Crossing was inaugurated by Charles in 1996.
When he visited its toll booth earlier with his wife and Mr Cairns, he chatted to Highways England staff who have been responsible for the crossing and the original bridge since they returned to public ownership in January this year.