LiveMerseytravel to vote on Mersey Tunnel toll hike

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This live event has finished

Summary

  • Merseyside's Transport Authority budget meeting agreed to a 10p hike, taking the fee to £1.70 for Class 1 vehicles.
  • But Merseytravel could have increased the toll to £1.80 under the Tunnels Act 2004.
  • Campaigners urged councillors to vote against the proposed increase.
  • Birkenhead MP Frank Field called on the authority to outline proposals to eliminate the tunnel debt and embark on a programme of toll reductions.

11:43pm

9:16pm Thu 6 Feb 14

Sargon says

Fantastic, once again the Mersey Tunnel authorities have voted to stab Wirral - and Liverpool - in the back with yet more above-inflation unnecessary increases.

I find it astonishing that Scotland is able to abolish tolls on its river crossings, and yet as soon as the Mersey Tunnel loans were paid off, tolls skyrocketed.

I'm lucky - I don't have to pay the tunnel tax every day, but it certainly makes "popping over to Liverpool" just that little bit less attractive.

8:22pm

4:20pm Thu 6 Feb 14

sonoferic says

As Merseytravel already based its 2014/15 budget on a toll rise, this was always a done deal and quite predictable. Talking about predictability, the impression that they're somehow doing tunnel users a favour by not increasing tolls by the full amount allowed.....wow, didn't see that one coming.

As for Councillor Robinson's assertion "this is what an integrated transport network is about." Err, no. Singling out a specific type of Merseytravel user (i.e. tunnel users) to provide subsidies to prop up the rest of your network is not what it's all about. Other cities and transport authorities seem to manage just fine without the cash cow you call the Mersey Tunnel providing cross-subsidies.

5:07pm

That's all for our live blog here at Globe towers. You can send your tunnel toll hike reaction to cmanning@wirral-globe.co.uk or emma.rigby@nqnw.co.uk

Alternatively, you can call us on 0151 649 4050 or 0151 649 649 4018.

Read our full report of today's events here.

4:50pm

It was these three Wirral councillors who tried to keep the toll at its current rate, with deputy mayor Cllr Steve Foulkes calling for a freeze on the toll.

Sadly, their hopes were dashed when the 10p increase - which is expected to earn Merseytravel an extra £2.4m a year - was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Wirral Globe: Wirral Globe: Wirral Globe:

Cllr Steve Foulkes, Cllr Les Rowlands and Cllr John Salter all voted against increasing the Mersey Tunnel toll.

4:06pm

Reaction of the tunnel toll hike coming in now...


Globe Senior reporter Emma Rigby is a regular user of the Queensway tunnel, commuting from over the water each day.
 
Earlier this morning, she tweeted how she will be affected...
 

4:03pm

Wirral Globe: Cllr Liam Robinson

Following the decision, Councillor Liam Robinson, chairman of Merseytravel’s Integrated Transport Authority said: “Taking a decision on tunnel tolls is never an easy one.

"We appreciate that any increase in the cost of a service is less money in people’s pockets and that’s why we don’t take it lightly. The tunnel tolls should rise in line with inflation each year, but we’ve once again kept them below this as well as offering further discounts via our Fast Tag scheme.

“The tunnels do make a surplus. This acts as a buffer should any urgent work be required to keep the tunnels running that’s not accounted for in any predetermined capital programmes. It also gets gets ringfenced for a funding pot that pays into projects such as Park and Ride schemes, new bus stations and access improvements. This is what an integrated transport network is about. We want one that is fit for the 21st Century and for a world class city region."

4:01pm

To recap, Merseyside’s Integrated Transport Authority has today approved a rise in the Mersey Tunnels toll, increasing the cost of a car journey paid in cash by 10p to £1.70 from April.

Under the Tunnels Act 2004, the toll should rise in line with inflation, taking a car crossing to £1.80. The 10p discount was at the discretion of elected members who can take into account economic and social factors should there be overriding need.

Members have also approved a rise on the Fast Tag toll, taking it up by 10p to £1.40 for cars. This means that for every six journeys the equivalent of the seventh would be free.

Increases have also been approved for other classes of vehicles.

Wirral Globe:
 

3:56pm

Globe chief reporter Craig Manning and senior reporter Emma Rigby have landed back at base.

Send your reaction to the tunnel toll hike being approved to cmanning@wirral-globe.co.uk or emma.rigby@nqnw.co.uk

Alternatively, you can call us on 0151 649 4050 or 0151 649 649 4018.

3:11pm

3:10pm

Wirral Globe:

John McGoldrick outside George's Dock Building.

John McGoldrick, Secretary of the Mersey Tunnel Users Association described the decision as a fait accompli. 

He told the Globe he was glad to see three Wirral councillors vote against it. Cllr Ron Abbey was not present but Sefton Lib Dem councillor also voted against the hike. 

"The whole thing is just a piece of theatre," said Mr McGoldrick. 

"I would like to stress that the reason the politicians do this, increase the tolls, is because people just don't shout enough. 

"Unless Wirral people are prepared to shout we are never going to see a stop to this. 

"We are never going to see an end to the tunnel tolls."

2:57pm

Despite great arguments in favour of keeping the toll at its current rate, motorists will see a rise from April. 

2:56pm

Wirral Globe:

Motion passed to raise the tunnel toll by 10p for Class 1 vehicles.

2:55pm

A motion to keep the toll at its current rate has been put forward by Cllr Rowlands. However it had been rejected on the vote. 

Wirral councillors Les Rowlands, Steve Foulkes and John Salter voted in favour of freezing the toll, as did Sefton Lib Deb councillor John Dodd.

2:55pm

Cllr Les Rowlands: "While the reserves are healthy, the £2.4m can be found elsewhere. Let's send a message that Merseytravel is not prepared to out the toll up every year."

2:53pm

However, he said: "The 10p increase is proportionate and with balance, is the best decision we can take in very difficult circumstances  at this moment in time."

2:51pm

He said it is important to view the tunnels as an integrated part of the region's transport network. 

2:50pm

Chairman Liam Robinson said he hears what everyone is saying and understands it is always a "very difficult and challenging decision". 

2:49pm

As well as calling for a freeze on the tunnel toll, Cllr Foulkes said he believes a Merseyside discount should be looked into. 

2:48pm

He said: "merseytravel should be sending out a message to say look, we realise that this is hard, we realise that this is going to have an impact on the local economy with people going to work, it's going to be a hard time to put an increase on the tunnel toll."

2:45pm

Councillor Les Rowlands has called for a freeze on the current tunnel toll. 

2:43pm

Cllr Foulkes said authority should continue to campaign for the national road network to take over the funding of the tunnels. 

He said he cannot support the proposals today but has not offered an alternative resolution. 

2:41pm

Wirral's deputy mayor Steve Foulkes said he believes now is not the right time to increase the tunnel tolls. 

2:36pm

Gary Evans, introducing the item says increasing the toll by 10p for Class 1 vehicles will generate approximately £2.4m per annum. 

2:33pm

Discussing the setting of the tunnel toll now...

2:32pm

Merseytravel chief exec Liam Robinson has kicked off the meeting with a prompt start. Currently approving minutes from the last meeting and taking apologies for absence. 

Wirral councillor Ron Abbey is one of those absent. 

2:28pm

Board members are starting to take their seats here at the budget meeting. Things are due to get underway shortly. 

1:43pm

We have just been informed that the tunnel toll hike will be first on the agenda this afternoon. It should be an interesting debate. 

Globe chief reporter Craig Manning and senior reporter Emma Rigby are on their way over to Mann Island now. 

1:34pm

There are four Wirral councillors on the Integrated Transport Authority board who are due to attend today's meeting.

They are Labour's Cllr Ron Abbey, Cllr Steve Foulkes, Cllr John Salter and Conservative's Cllr Les Rowlands.

Wirral Globe: Wirral Globe: Cllr Steve Foulkes

     Cllr Ron Abbey          Cllr Steve Foulkes

Wirral Globe: Cllr Les RowlandsWirral Globe:

   Cllr Les Rowlands        Cllr John Salter

1:19pm

There has been a lot of money spent on improving the tunnels in recent years. Some of the more recent completed schemes include renewing the cladding in the Queensway tunnel, costing £8m and renewing the tunnel approach road lighting at a cost of £1.9m.

A new tunnel CCTV system has also been installed, costing £1.2m.

Merseytravel is delivering a further 70 projects this financial year (2013/14), which includes the resurfacing of the Kingsway tunnel for £3m, the £900,000 renewal of the tunnel's emergency phone system and the renewel of the fire system for £500,000.

1:08pm

Another tweet here...
 

1:07pm

As well as keeping nearly 8km of surface roadway in the Queensway and Kingsway up to standard, many other aspects of operation need to be kept in good working order, including:

  • 14km of road, when including the tunnel and approach roads
  • 5,428 light fittings, including those on the approach roads
  • 44 in-tunnel ventilation fans
  • 8 ventilation stations each with six four-story high fans
  • 30 water pumps to remove ground water
  • 32 jet fans which clear smoke in the event of an emergency
  • 11 standby electricity generators which have enough capacity to supply 2700 homes
  • 400 CCTV cameras linked up to the central control room to assist in assessing traffic flow and in the event of accidents and emergencies.

1:02pm

Here are a few Mersey Tunnel facts, figures and mythbusters, inspired by the below tweet from @windlerob.

Many people believe the tunnel debt was paid off long ago...

It may shock some to learn that the loans are still being paid and will not be paid off until 2048.
A spokesman for Merseytravel told the Globe the payments are fixed and the penalties incurred by paying them off early would make the debt more expensive, making it a false economy.

"The debt does not just relate to the construction costs of both the Queensway and Kingsway, but also the money that was borrwoed for tunnel maintenance and improvements before the Tunnels ACt 2004," said the spokesman.

"This now ensures sufficient funds are generated through tunnel use to allow for their upkeep and improvement without borrowing.  

"As assets, the tunnels are worth around £1bn. The capital expenditure levels and maintenance being paid is modest considering their value."

12:58pm


 

12:45pm

A few opinions have already been aired on Twitter.


 

12:42pm

Let us know your thoughts on the proposed hike by commenting below, or tweeting us @WirralGlobeNews. Alternatively, you can tweet senior reporter @emmajanerigby, who will be reporting live from this afternoon’s meeting.

12:40pm

If approved, price increases will also be enforced for other classes of vehicles. Class 2 vehicles are expected to see tolls set at £3.40, Class 3 vehicles at £5.10 and Class 4 vehicles at £6.80.

Here is a full breakdown of the increases being proposed.

Wirral Globe:

12:35pm

Wirral Globe: The Kingsway Tunnel in Wallasey

In 2012/13, £12,630,000 was spent on maintenance and improvements of the Kingsway and Queensway tunnels.

Recent improvement schemes to the tunnels have included the resurfacing of Queensway and soon-to-be-completed resurfacing of Kingsway, totalling £5m, and the fire main renewal in the Kingsway costing £3.5m

12:20pm

Merseytravel has defended the proposed rise and said it is necessary to cover unplanned emergency work in the ageing tunnel system.

A spokesman for the authority said elected members will consider a number of factors, including ensuring there is enough money to operate, maintain and invest in the tunnels.

Surplus funds will be used to support the wider transport infrastructure, with the wider economic climate also being taken into account.

12:17pm

Wirral Globe: Cllr Steve Foulkes

Wirral’s deputy mayor, Cllr Steve Foulkes, is a member of the Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority Board and voted against the increase last year.

Today, he told the Globe: "The tunnels and tolls are part of Merseyside's Transport solution.

"The real solution would be for the government to integrate the tunnels into the national roads network, paid for by the taxpayer.

"The have flatly refused to make it part of the national road network.

"Clearly, I cannot pre-empt this afternoon’s vote, but I will certainly take on board issues raised."

12:14pm

Wirral Globe: Frank Field MP

Birkenhead MP Frank Field has also objected to the hike, asking the authority to outline proposals to eliminate the tunnel debt and embark on a programme of toll reductions.
The influential Labour MP says tolls “unfairly discriminate against Wirral and some Liverpool residents”.

Mr Field said: “Wirral has got the transport authorities stacked against it.

“Wirral certainly, maybe Liverpool, has an interest in not increasing tunnel tolls.

“Few of the other authorities are affected by this increase but they vote a poll tax increase on Wirral residents.

"Wirral residents are subsidising the transport projects which probably most of them know nothing of, let alone use."

12:10pm

What do you think about the proposed hike? So far 86% of Globe online readers have said they do not believe the increase is fair. Cast your vote below.

12:08pm

Campaigners have called on councillors to reject the hike, claiming that the 10p increase could add an extra £50 a year on to car drivers’ outgoings.

Dave Loudon, of Mersey Tunnels Users Association, said: “For firms with goods vehicles regularly using the tunnels, it could amount to several hundred pounds a vehicle.”

He added: "We believe any toll is unfair on drivers who already pay a fortune in fuel duty and other road taxes.

“What other area of Britain would put up with such a situation?"

12:03pm

Members are also being asked to approve a rise on the Fast Tag toll, taking it up by 10p to £1.40 for cars. 

More than 6,000 people have pledged support for an online petition, launched by Shaun King from Wirral, opposing any increase. 

12:01pm

Merseytravel COULD increase the toll by more than the proposed 10p. Under the Tunnels Act 2004, the toll should rise in line with inflation, taking a car crossing to £1.80. 

The 10p discount would be at the discretion of elected members who can take into account economic and social factors should there be any overriding need. 

11:55am

Wirral Globe: Hundreds of thousands of counterfeit coins from Mersey tunnel booths could be turned into a public sculptureMerseyside’s Transport Authority is expected to agree a 10p hike in the tunnel tolls today, taking the fee to £1.70 for Class 1 vehicles.

Globe chief reporter Craig Manning and senior reporter Emma Rigby will be keeping you up-to-date with how the meeting unfolds from 2.30pm. Until then, we’ll fill you in on all the background to the hike and what those opposed have to say about it.

Comments (3)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

2:15pm Thu 6 Feb 14

JimmyMercury says...

Be like turkeys voting against Christmas!
Be like turkeys voting against Christmas! JimmyMercury
  • Score: 2

4:20pm Thu 6 Feb 14

sonoferic says...

As Merseytravel already based its 2014/15 budget on a toll rise, this was always a done deal and quite predictable. Talking about predictability, the impression that they're somehow doing tunnel users a favour by not increasing tolls by the full amount allowed.....wow, didn't see that one coming.

As for Councillor Robinson's assertion "this is what an integrated transport network is about." Err, no. Singling out a specific type of Merseytravel user (i.e. tunnel users) to provide subsidies to prop up the rest of your network is not what it's all about. Other cities and transport authorities seem to manage just fine without the cash cow you call the Mersey Tunnel providing cross-subsidies.
As Merseytravel already based its 2014/15 budget on a toll rise, this was always a done deal and quite predictable. Talking about predictability, the impression that they're somehow doing tunnel users a favour by not increasing tolls by the full amount allowed.....wow, didn't see that one coming. As for Councillor Robinson's assertion "this is what an integrated transport network is about." Err, no. Singling out a specific type of Merseytravel user (i.e. tunnel users) to provide subsidies to prop up the rest of your network is not what it's all about. Other cities and transport authorities seem to manage just fine without the cash cow you call the Mersey Tunnel providing cross-subsidies. sonoferic
  • Score: 3

9:16pm Thu 6 Feb 14

Sargon says...

Fantastic, once again the Mersey Tunnel authorities have voted to stab Wirral - and Liverpool - in the back with yet more above-inflation unnecessary increases.

I find it astonishing that Scotland is able to abolish tolls on its river crossings, and yet as soon as the Mersey Tunnel loans were paid off, tolls skyrocketed.

I'm lucky - I don't have to pay the tunnel tax every day, but it certainly makes "popping over to Liverpool" just that little bit less attractive.
Fantastic, once again the Mersey Tunnel authorities have voted to stab Wirral - and Liverpool - in the back with yet more above-inflation unnecessary increases. I find it astonishing that Scotland is able to abolish tolls on its river crossings, and yet as soon as the Mersey Tunnel loans were paid off, tolls skyrocketed. I'm lucky - I don't have to pay the tunnel tax every day, but it certainly makes "popping over to Liverpool" just that little bit less attractive. Sargon
  • Score: 1

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