Tunnel users champions have sent out a clarion call for motorists to mount a massive demonstration against the latest 10p toll rise.

The 10p price increase - blasted by Wirral Council leader Cllr Jeff Green as a hammer blow for the borough - is due to take effect from April. It will cost motorists £1.50 per journey.

Mersey Tunnel User Association secretary John McGoldrick said today: "If people just lie down and take this decision by Merseytravel they will be back for more. "Based on the retail price index formula they use they will be back for a 20 pence increase in 12 months time."

He went on: "We are asking the motoring public for suggestions as to what we should do; what we do hope is that we can rally enough support for a major demonstration against the increase - probably on the day the tolls go up.

"I would say that 99% of tunnel users complain about the tolls, but very few people are either willing or able to join in any sort of protest."

MTUA are incensed that the increase was forced through by Merseytravel members other than from Wirral or Liverpool.

The 18-strong board was split down the middle with nine in favour and nine against. Sefton Cllr Mark Dowd used his casting vote to approve the increase in tools.

Wirral West MP Esther McVey said she had had received many phone calls from HGV businesses whose toll charges go up from £5.60 to £6.

She said: "This is a phenomenal increase which will have repercussions for businesses and the cost of goods."

She also said that it was outrageous that the the increase had gone thropugh on the votes of councillors from "elsewhere."

"Questions need to be asked about that and about the £70m for the Liverpool tram system which was a massive mistake which we are footing the bill for."

Councillor Green said: "This is a hammer blow to the people in Wirral and makes a mockery of Labour's claims to be on the side of working people.

"Labour-led Merseytravel is in denial over the economic problems facing Merseyside.

"They had a choice today whether to use some of Merseytravel's cash reserves already generated by their previous increases in tolls and they chose instead to hit drivers, families and small businesses.

"While I and the administration running Wirral are trying our best to keep costs down and protect services, it seems Merseytravel are going in the opposite direction."

The four Wirral councillors on the Merseytravel board voted against the increase.

Addressing the committee prior to voting Chris Blakeley, Conservative councillor for Moreton West & Saughall, said: "The CBI are opposed to this, the Federation of Small Businesses are opposed to this, as is the leader of Wirral Council.

"The public are equally against any increase."

Eastham Liberal Democrat councillor David Mitchell said: "With the current economic situation it would be wrong to increase the tolls.

"We need to be realistic and think about what people can afford in this day and age."

Before casting his deciding vote, Cllr Dowd said: "The people who use the tunnels must pay for them - it is impossible for the tunnels to be free.

"In my opinion, we need to put the tolls up. We are all in the mire and I'm sorry, but as far as I'm concerned, I will be backing the recommendation.

"If it means using the casting vote then I have no problem with that."