TOLLING arrangements for the new Mersey Gateway have been revealed this morning.
Merseyflow will operate a system which will charge motorists travelling over the new crossing and the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge £2 each way – from this autumn.
There will be no toll booths.
Instead automatic number plate reading technology will scan vehicles and registered users will get a special sticker to attach to their windscreens to identify them as they cross the river.
Free tolls are available for eligible Halton residents and blue badge holders once they have paid a small fee but everyone who qualifies will need to register to get this discount.
Chief executive of Halton Council David Parr said: “We’ve worked closely with the tolling team to set up the merseyflow system and make sure that people have plenty of time to work out the best approach for them before registration opens later this year.”
Regular users of both bridges can apply for reduced rates but must register to access these savings.
Drivers of cars or small vans will be able to buy a monthly pass that will cap their costs and offer unlimited travel across the river in Halton.
The information is being published now to ensure that everyone who will use the new bridge has an opportunity to look at it and understand which approach is best for them.
Merseyflow will be sharing information on Facebook and Twitter and will be working closely with Halton Council and the construction team to spread the message about tolling.
When registration opens this summer there will also be a walk-in centre and a team available by phone to answer queries about the registration and payment process.
Managing director of Merseyflow Anthony Alicastro said: “For the vast majority of people, registering will be the best way to get the best discount on the tolls. Tolling registration will not open until the summer.
“After they have registered and paid a small annual administration fee, the vast majority of Halton residents will be eligible for free travel across both the Mersey Gateway Bridge and Silver Jubilee Bridge.
“People living outside of Halton who drive a small car or a van will have two options to reduce the cost of the toll; registering for a pre-pay merseyflow account, which will save up to 10 per cent on the cost of each trip or registering for a monthly pass which will cap the cost of travel.”
Leading businesses in Halton have backed the positive impact the new bridge could bring to the region’s economy.
Executive director with Stobart Group Richard Butcher said: “As a business Stobart Group has invested heavily in developing our presence in Halton over recent years and the Mersey Gateway Project has been a major factor behind that decision.”
“Stobart Group now employs 146 people at our base in Widnes and we’ve always been clear that the benefits that the new bridge will bring in terms of quicker, easier and more reliable journeys will be a positive boost for the economy in the region.
“We’re looking forward to the new bridge opening later this year and it’s good to see the details of the tolling arrangements being shared at this early stage.”
Chief executive at Halton Chamber of Commerce Paula Cain said: “The Mersey Gateway project and forthcoming refurbishment of the Silver Jubilee Bridge have helped put Halton on the map.
“The project sends out a clear signal that we’re growing as a successful area in which to invest, and develop your business.
“It’s important business owners review the tolling options available to them to find out what works best.
“Halton Chamber of Commerce is working closely with its members to help them prepare for the introduction of tolls when the bridge opens this autumn.”
Carol Thomas, finance director at SOG Group – the owner and operator of The Heath Business and Technical Park in Runcorn, said: “We’ve seen a lot of interest in businesses coming into The Heath from outside of the local area in recent times and the new bridge and the wider investment associated with it is playing a major part in that.
“As a local business we know that tolls are part of the package but the new bridge will make getting to and moving around Halton a lot easier.”
Construction work on the Mersey Gateway Bridge and connecting roads will continue until the autumn of 2017.
Once the new bridge opens, the Silver Jubilee Bridge will close for around 12 months for repairs and improvements to further improve journeys.
The merseyflow tolling system will be operated by emovis, a global leader in tolling solutions, and which successfully operates similar schemes in the UK, Canada and Ireland.
A new website merseyflow.co.uk has been launched to guide people through the registration process.