CAMPAIGNERS say they will continue their fight against Mersey Tunnel tolls after a price hike was approved today.

The increase to £1.80 – which comes into effect on Sunday, April 1 – was voted through during Liverpool City Region Combined Authority's budget meeting.

It was among a series of measures proposed by Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, which also includes a cheaper off-peak £1 toll for Fast Tag users. A new discount for off-peak travellers will also apply between 7pm and 7am, Monday to Saturday and all day Sunday.

Other ideas backed by councillors during today's meeting at Mann Island in Liverpool include continuing to provide free travel through the tunnels for emergency services and free travel for all users between 10pm on December 24 and 6am on December 26.

Wirral Labour councillors Steve Foulkes, Ron Abbey and Jerry Williams voted against the toll increase during a meeting of Merseytravel’s committee yesterday.

After it was approved today, John McGoldrick from Scrap Mersey Tolls and the Tunnels Users Association told the Globe: "It is a scandal that drivers and businesses who use the tunnels are treated as nothing more than a source of cash for Merseytravel's pet schemes and that the public are misled about what the tolls are used for.

"Councillors complained at the meetings about spending pressures, yet at the same time they are spending over £400 million on new trains.

"Trains which in every other part of the country are provided by Rolling Stock Leasing companies and which are not funded by tolls.

"Our area has to suffer so that Merseytravel can have their own train set.

"With the opening of the Mersey Gateway last October our region is split into two by tolls.

"This does not apply anywhere else and we urge everyone to sign the petition which calls for all Mersey tolls to be scrapped -"

Their campaign is backed by Wirral Council leader Phil Davies, who voted against the 10p increase during this morning's meeting.

Cllr Davies, responsible for the City Region's Economic Development portfolio, said he wanted to see the current cash toll frozen and believes the Metro Mayor's £1 Fast-Tag off-peak offer should be extended.

He added: "At a time when the Government's austerity agenda is hitting areas like Wirral the hardest, working families are already struggling to make ends meet.

"I didn't think increasing the tunnel tolls was the right approach to take which is why I voted against it at the Combined Authority.

"The £1 off-peak Fast-Tag offer is welcome and I believe should be extended so users can enjoy it without the rigid time restrictions in place.

"I will continue to lobby along with all Combined Authority leaders and the Metro Mayor so Ministers in Whitehall live up to the promise to scrap the toll which George Osborne made in Wirral during the 2015 General Election campaign."

Prior to the meeting, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said: "I fully understand that no-one likes paying tolls, so I have put forward proposals designed to reduce costs for regular and local users of the Mersey Tunnels.

"By freezing the fast tag and introducing the £1 off-peak, we are striving to make cross-river travel as affordable and convenient as possible.

"Encouraging more people to travel off-peak will also help to reduce congestion and improve air quality by reducing the number of queuing vehicles.

"A review and refresh of tunnel operations is under way, which amongst other things, will look at the introduction of contactless payment and new technology.

"As part of that process I would want to look at ways in which we can make it as easy as possible for people to use the cheapest payment option."