DISCLOSURE that Mersey Tunnel tolls will next year generate almost £10m profits has drawn fierce criticism from tunnel users' champion John McGoldrick.
Tunnel accounts show a surplus rise of 26% - from £7.7m to £9.7m - after all costs have been taken into consideration.
They also reveal that income from the tolls will break through the £40m mark – rising from £38,995,000 to £41,390,000.
Mr McGoldrick, secretary of the Mersey Tunnel Users' Association said: "It is a scandal that they (Merseytravel) are making so much money from tunnel tolls.
"We don't believe that drivers should have to pay a toll to use a road that links one part of Merseyside to the other.
"Central government get one billion pounds a week from road users and it is virtual robbery to stop driver at the tunnel entrance to demand more money.
"Merseytravel say that the government would not take over the tunnels- that may be true for now but Merseytravel and local politicians have never made any serious attempt to remove the tolls."
Mr McGoldrick added: "In the financial year just ending Merseytravel are likely to make a further £9m, with the profit increasing to £13.5m in the year from April, mainly due to the tolls rising on April 6 and £3.5m profits that Merseytravel takes as so called 'levy repayment.'"
The MTUA has persistently opposed increases in tunnel tolls – they go up from £1.60 to £1.70 from April 6 – claiming they effectively divided families and friends.
Wirral councillor Les Rowland accused Merseytravel of using the tunnels as a "cash cow."
He said the tunnel tolls were "a tax on Merseyside".
Cllr Rowland commented: "In these times of austerity Merseytravel could have made gesture to people who have to use the tunnels.
"But instead they are increasing their profits on the tunnels and building up the reserves."
The accounts show an escalation in income from tolls from £37.3m in 2012-13 to an estimated £41.3m over the next year.
Merseytravel chairman Cllr Liam Robinson said the tunnels surplus acted as a buffer should any urgent work be needed to keep the tunnels running that was not accounted for in pre-determined capital programmes.
He said: "We appreciate that any increase in the cost of a service is less money in people’s pockets and we don’t take it lightly.
"It (the surplus) also get ring fenced for a number of projects such as park and ride schemes and new bus stations.
"We are getting less money from the districts so the surplus becomes ever more important in maintaining and improving the transport network."