MOTORISTS have accused a council of “postcode discrimination”

after it stopped them buying cheap tokens to cross Southampton’s Itchen Bridge.

Council chiefs are demanding passport ID in a clampdown on commuters living outside Southampton buying the tokens to cross the bridge, pictured, at a discount.

The move has angered motorists from Hedge End, Netley and Locks Heath who consider themselves Southampton residents but have now been banned from buying tokens.

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Southampton City Council insists only council tax payers living in postcodes SO14 to SO19 are eligible.

Commuters using the tokens to cross the bridge to get to and from work in the city centre can save around £9 a month.

Michelle Marchant, 40, of Netley, had been buying bags of tokens for six years.

“I have a Southampton address, I live in Netley Abbey a stone’s throw away from the Itchen Bridge route to Southampton and I now cannot buy bridge tokens anymore as I do not pay Southampton council tax. If you live in Portswood or Bitterne you can buy the tokens but if you have an SO31 postal code you can't, which is absolutely absurd. It’s postcode discrimination.”

The council has now ordered the 17 shops in the city which sell the tokens to get a proof of address. However, Cabinet member for transport, councillor Matt Dean, insisted there had been no change of policy.

He said the council was merely complying with the law governing use of the bridge, which says “only Southampton residents are eligible for the tokens”, after the system had been abused.

The tokens can be used instead of cash to cross the Itchen Bridge. Red tokens for off-peak crossings cost 30p, instead of the 50p toll. Blue tokens for peak crossing cost 40p, instead of the 60p toll.

The £12.2m Itchen Bridge opened in 1977. Tolls have raised £50m. The council says they were put in place chiefly to manage traffic flows. The council is separately paying off the construction costs under loans that are expected to run until 2016.

Around seven million vehicles pass over the bridge a year. About 1.8 million use tokens.