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2005 NEWS

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24 December 2005
Tram Writ
Knowsley's website says that the High Court have given Merseytravel permission to bring their case against the Government.
PS Merseytravel press release

New Runcorn Bridge
Meanwhile, the Weekly News reports that Halton Council is hoping that some of the abortive tram scheme money might go towards a new bridge. Though this will not help road users, as they still intend to toll the new and old bridges. "Leader sure of bridge success".

16 December 2005
We said on 12th November that we asked Merseytravel various questions about safety in the Tunnels. This is part of what we have been told:-

  • When the works in the Birkenhead Tunnel started they were referred to as "refuges" or "bunkers", but Merseytravel later referred to them as exits or escapes. To avoid confusion, we asked Merseytravel to say what they were. Answer -
    "This word "bunkers" has been used by others .. The works comprise the construction of emergency escapes from the road deck area, which give access to refuges in the fresh air supply airways beneath the road deck at a total of seven locations. These seven refuges are linked by a continuous new walkway inside the fresh air supply duct and further, to ground level at Liverpool Pier Head and at Birkenhead Shore Road."

  • We asked what provision has been made for disabled people or those who may have been injured? Answer -
    "Access from the roadway to ... the refuges and along the full length of the walkway is suitable for disabled persons, including standard wheelchairs and for stretchers... The exits to ground level at Liverpool Pier Head and Birkenhead Shore Road involve staircases."

  • One of our members told us that before this work was carried out it was possible to walk along in the Birkenhead Tunnel under the road decking. So we asked was this so? Answer -
    "It has always been possible to walk the full underwater length of the tunnel, via the air supply ducts, but the route contained many hazards and had no intermediate access points. The new walkways, which follow part of this route, are safe, have handrails and are lit."

  • At the end of July a letter was published by the Mersey Tunnels referring to the Birkenhead "emergency exits" and "communication leaflets". We had not seen any leaflets referring to these "exits" so we asked about this? Answer -
    (Starts by referring to leaflets distributed in May 2001 and September 2002, prior to the "emergency exits" "...Finally, a further 40,000 leaflets have been printed to incorporate the information regarding the Queensway Tunnels Refuges and these have been delivered and will be distributed .. as before" (by staff handing them out at toll booths during morning peak and by posting them to Fast Tag users).

    Barricade gone
    On 12th November we reported that someone had asked us "Why is there a massive barricade (with hard shoulder closed) round the weight restriction warning sign as you come out of the Wallasey Tunnel and head for the M53? - We never did find out, but the barricade has gone. Pity that they didn't remove all the toll barriers as well!

    Tram Writ
    Todays' Daily Post says that Merseytravel have served a writ on the Government. They want the courts to force the Government to "hand over the 170m it originally pledged" or at least the 50m that Merseytravel have already spent. The Daily Post refers to "the 50m squandered as a direct result of (Government) prevarication", and invites readers to email them with their views, we wonder whether anyone will be brave enough to disagree.

    15 December 2005
    Over the last week, there have been more letters in the Daily Post and Liverpool Echo. They "blame" Liverpool City Council for the trams scheme being stopped. Oddly, it is the City Council who are also blamed for spending so much money before there was definite approval of the scheme.

    Roads spending
    In Monday's Echo, the prime letter was "No more roads". The Government must have been listening, as with a big fanfare, the Government yesterday announced the main annual allocations for roads spending:- North West allocation. Merseyside is to get an almost invisible 49 million with a large chunk of that going to Merseytravel. The Government gets more than 49 billion a year from road users, so the 49 million will have taken Gordon Brown about 8 hours to collect. Even worse, roads users will see little benefit from it as it will mainly go on public transport and schemes that make it harder for vehicles to move on the roads. Last month, The Daily Post claimed of Liverpool's Big Dig that "the pain was worth the gain", but a letter from Joe in Kirkdale today said that there would be only pain - "Should I now be walking as "they" designed it all, just to force me out of my car?".

    9 December 2005
    Wirral Globe
    Lots of letters in this week's Globe:-
  • "Paul" from Prenton is "Against more price hikes on the tunnel tolls", but says that the article "On Yer Bike Mike" from 4 weeks ago is "snobbery and the people of Wirral would be using tram as frequently as any "Scouse" person". Tunnels Users are not concerned with who will use the trams, we just don't want our tolls to be spent on them.
  • There was a letter 2 weeks ago which strongly defended Mike Storey and blamed the Labour controlled Merseytravel" and the two Wirral Labour Councillors on Merseytravel board. This week a letter points out that the previous writer had not mentioned that he was an ex Lib Dem councillor. This indirect defence of Labour comes from - the "Clatterbridge Conservative Action Team"!
  • Ian Miller asks how much money has been spent on the currently dead tram scheme and says that using tolls to finance it is "NOT an option"
  • Sean Foster says that the shoring up of the tram scheme by tunnel users "has never been fair, equitable or right"

    8 December 2005
    Tunnels and Bridges
    This morning's Daily Post published this letter from us:- "On Friday, Phil Redmond suggested putting money into "scrapping the tunnel tolls, uniting the two cities separated by one river" and getting another "simple and affordable, Mersey crossing".
    Perhaps, Phil should be Mayor of Merseyside, because I fear that the politicians have other plans!
    The Government will eventually put money into another crossing, but it will all be wasted. The bridge will cost more because they want a two tier structure. As you might guess it appears that one tier is intended for trams. Even worse, it will be privately financed. This will mean vast sums paid to an army of advisers and bankers. Worse again, they have suggested that when the new bridge is built, they will close down half the traffic lanes on the old bridge and put tolls on both existing and new bridges.
    Roads users pay nearly fifty billion pounds of taxes to the Government each year. A new bridge could be paid for from just a few days taxes, the Tunnels debt could be wiped out with less than one day's road taxes. Why should the people of Greater Merseyside have to suffer?
    There should be toll free crossings, including a new bridge, and they should be there now."

    7 December 2005
    ?, ?, ?, ?
    Another half page of trams letters in today's Daily Post. Pride of place goes to a letter headed "Stop complaining" from someone in Formby. Tunnels users have been called "whinging" and "whining", yesterday we were "ignoring" matters and now they are "amazed at the sheer stupidity of our arguments".
    The writer asked why shouldn't Tunnel users subsidise the trams as people in Sefton are subsidising the ferries and the trains on the Wirral. This argument assumes that all Tunnels users are from the Wirral, that the ferries are mainly for the benefit of people on the Wirral, that the only trains are on the Wirral, and that trains are mainly subsidised from council tax. These assumptions are all wrong, on top of which Tunnel users have been required to subsidise the ferries for most of the last 70 years.
    Tunnels users already have to suffer by having to use the only road in the North West and North Wales area which is tolled. We often have to join a queue at the toll barrier to exercise this "privilege". We don't want to subsidise the trams or anything else, even if some people believe that we are stupid. But there again maybe the writer is right, otherwise why would tunnel users have been paying tolls for over 70 years?
    PS The Echo had a few letters touching on the trams. One again blaming the Government, one mentioning that there is already a train service from Liverpool to Kirkby, and one suggesting that you wouldn't trust the city with money after what happened to the "Cloud" and the Everton stadium etc.

    6 December 2005
    Tram, Tram, Tram, Tram
    We thought they were running out of things to say, but today's letters page in the Daily Post was nearly all pro trams, with headlines like:- "Shock over tram decision", "Triple blow", "Second rate city" and "Body blow". Best of all was a letter complaining about "being flooded with letters and emails for the tunnels to be free" If only! Judging by what has been published ,the Daily Post and Echo readers think that Merseytravel is great and that Tunnels users should be charged as much as possible.
    PS Tonight's Echo had more pro trams letters.

    5 December 2005
    Tram tomorrow?
    The Merseytravel councillors met today. It has been reported that they have decided to take legal action against the Government, to get them to reinstate the cash that was offered. It looks as if it could be a VERY long time before we will know what is happening to tunnel tolls.
    PS Report in next day's Daily Post

    Liverpool Echo
    The above news was too late to get in the Echo, but - more trams letters. All back Merseytravel, one blames the Liverpool officers, another says that Merseytravel "deserve our thanks". And of course there is another about "whinging Wirralites".

    Daily Post
  • Hat's off to Larry Neild who in this morning's column discussed Mike Storey and the Standards Board. He ended- "How about handing the promised 170m to Merseytravel to help pay off the debt for the Mersey tunnels so they can become toll-free? That will do more than anything to boost the economic climate on both sides of the river. Seems unlikely to happen, and unfortunately the Standards Board does not investigate broken promises!"

  • Two more pro trams letters- "Concerns over tram situation" "Major blow"

  • Saturday's Post had a big item where Halton Council called for the 170m for the tram to be used for a new Runcorn bridge:- "Call to divert Merseytram cash into new bridge plan". As far as roads users are concerned they may as well burn the 170m as use it on a new bridge. The politicians intend that there will be a toll on both the new and the old bridge. Tolls will be as much as they can extort from roads users.

    3 December 2005
    Liverpool Echo
  • Thursday's Echo had a lot of letters on the trams. Though there were some comparing the loss of the trams to the "loss" of the Fourth Grace, there were others saying that Liverpool had had "a lucky escape". One writer complained about the road improvement planned for the Edge Hill area linking the M62 to the central area of the city. They suggested that instead they should be reopening disused railway tunnels. Ken Wilson suggested that "surplus money put aside for the trams should be used to pay off tunnels debt and then the whole of Merseyside could benefit".
  • Friday's Echo had a few more letters on the trams, one regretting the end of the scheme and suggesting that now "the bus companies need to spend money on the infrastructure and bring a bit of class and style back to the city through modernisation of vehicles". Allan Green suggested that the surpluses could be used to reduce the cost of using the tunnels and "perhaps residents of Merseyside could be given free passge. This would also reduce congestion. I wonder!".
  • Saturday's Echo had some more letters on the trams, mainly blaming the Government and saying that money is going to London and Manchester. At least none of them refer to "whinging" tunnels users!
  • The Merseytravel councillors meet on Monday to decide what they will do about the tram scheme. It is possible that they may decide to try and continue with the trams in some way.

    2 December 2005
    Daily Post
  • More letters this morning about the trams. One even said "Any surplus from the tunnels should be used to pay the debt off early, reduce tolls off peak, allow free passage for public transport or make Sundays toll free. All sensible worthwhile proposals advocated by the Mersey Tunnel Users Association." Hurrah!
  • Three Tory councillors also wrote in:- " Now that the scheme is dead, perhaps Merseytravekl will use the 40m .. to pay off some of the tunnels debt" and eventually "make the tunnels part of the national road network and free to all". Another Hurrah!
  • In his weekly column, Phil Redmond says that it was obvious some time ago that the Government had gone cool on financing trams schemes. He suggests that the way forward now is to use any available money on "scrapping the tunnel tolls, uniting the two cities separated by one river" and getting another "simple and affordable, Mersey crossing". Another even bigger Hurrah!!

    1 December 2005
    The Wirral Globe reports on the apparent demise of the trams scheme and credits Globe readers and Stephen Hesford MP who says "If there is spare toll cash available, it must now be used to pay off any debt and make the tunnels toll free." :- "You made them think again: Tunnel tolls should be cut now tram scheme has been axed - MP".
    We don't believe that campaigning against the use of tunnels tolls had any effect at all on the fate of the trams scheme. But we hope that the Wirral Globe and Stephen Hesford will continue to press for a fairer deal for tunnels users.
    There were no letters from tunnels users in the Globe this week (nor in the Wirral News), neither was there any trace of our suggestion (see yesterday) that Steve Foulkes, the Wirral Labour leader, and Stuart Kelly, the Lib Dem leader, should be asked to explain why they believe that Tunnels users should be treated as a cash cow

    Trams Letters
    There are various letters in this morning's Daily Post, mainly from supporters of the tram scheme. They did however publish a letter from us about "moaning Wirralites" (see yesterday). It asked whether the previous letter writer would be "backing our proposals" - but unfortunately the Daily Post edited out what the proposals were!

    Traffic worse
    There have been more letters and reports over the last week about how traffic is now worse than it was before on those "Big Dig" roads in Liverpool that have been completed. Last week it was mainly about the Tithebarn Street area. Last night a bus driver in the Liverpool Echo referred to all the work in the Berry Street / Renshaw street area:- "Instead of improving traffic flow it has made it worse". If you look back on our News pages we feared that this would happen. This doesn't prove that this was their intention, but if it wasn't then how was it so predictable?

    Fast Tag
    We reported on the 18th that Merseytravel had set up a rival Tunnels website at:- . We don't want to encourage you to go there! But if you have a Fast Tag account you may find it useful. Following complaints from various people, it is now possible to see how the amount that has been debited to a Fast Tag account has been calculated.

    30 November 2005
    Trams - Alive?
    It seems that Merseytravel may be trying to keep the tram scheme rolling:- Daily Post & Echo - "We'll see you in court, Mr Blair".

    Trams - Letters
    For the record, here are some that have appeared since we last covered this on the 21st:-

  • Yesterday in the Daily Post we had one from someone in Formby about "moaning Wirralites" and tunnels tolls. We have written to the Daily Post saying "Tunnels users believe that there should be no tolls, but if we are forced to have them then we want them to only be used for the tunnels. It makes no difference whether the trams are in Liverpool, Wirral or Timbuktu. Merseytravel make a big profit on the Tunnels. A year ago, the MTUA proposed that this should be used to avoid toll increases, make buses toll free, reduce tolls off peak and make Sundays free. As the person from Formby uses the Tunnels every day, and it now appears the tram scheme is not going ahead, will he back our proposals?"

  • Last week's Wirral News had a couple of letters. One was from that well known opponent of tunnels users "name and address supplied" They say that "they will be pleased to pay the extra Mersey tunnel tolls to cover the shortfall for Line 1 of the tram scheme". The other letter was from someone asking "Why do we have to pay 1.30 each way to travel to Loverpool?", and contrasted this with a trip to Anglesey which includes various bridges and tunnels, all toll free. For some reason the letter was printed under the heading "Authorities have the right idea".

  • Last week's Wirral Globe had a big piece from Mike Storey, just before he resigned as Liverpool City Council leader over a completely different matter. Mike said that he was born in Wallasey and tried to justify why he supported using 40 million of tunnels tolls to pay for the tram. In an earlier attempt to justify this he said "The total number of Merseyside residents who use the tunnels amounts to 3%. 97% of the adult population on Merseyside do not use the tunnels, but pay for them via their Council Tax." Mike is no longer leader, but whoever replaces him will no doubt have the same beliefs. As there are more Tunnels users from the Wirral than there are from Liverpool we would hope that Wirral councillors would know the real facts. Yet of the four Wirral councillors on the Merseytravel board only one councillor, a Tory, opposed the use of tunnels tolls. We have suugested to the Globe that it would be appropriate for Steve Foulkes, the Wirral Labour leader, and Stuart Kelly, the Lib Dem leader, to try and explain why they believe that Tunnels users should be treated as a cash cow.
    Stephen Hesford, Labour MP for Wirral West also commented, ending:- "The tunnels should be made free of toll charges. By earmarking 40m for the trams it makes it much less likely that the promise made that one day the tunnels would be free, will ever happen."

  • The Wirral Globe also had a page of letters. One was an open letter to Mike Storey asking him to to bring the whole thing into the light", though another letter strongly defended Mike Storey and and blamed the Labour controlled Merseytravel" and the two Labour Councillors on Merseytravel board. We agree that it is mainly Merseytravel who are responsible, but we wonder why the writer doesn't mention the Lib Dem councillors (including one from Wirral) on Merseytravel board? Another letter calls on these three councillors to resign.
    But the opponents of tunnels users had their say. One was the person in the Wirral News who was "pleased to pay". Another writer called us "selfish and shortsighted". Another wants "to start a campaign to raise tunnel fees to 3 per trip - and for them to rise by more than the inflation rate"".

    29 November 2005
    Trams - Dead?
    It seems that the scheme is now dead, following an announcement this morning from the Government:- Daily Post & Echo - "Trams: It's over"     Government Press release.
    Paul Clein, the acting leader of Liverpool City Council, on the Roger Philips show today said that up to 60 million may already have been committed to the trams scheme, and suggested that it be financed from tunnels tolls. We wonder what else he would like to spend tolls on.
    The trams saga has highlighted that the Tunnels make a profit, we will be proposing how this profit should be spent for the benefit of Tunnels users.

    23 November 2005
    Private sector to pay for new bridge!
    Yesterday's delegation to lobby for a "second" Mersey Crossing have come back happy:November Daily Post - "Decision on bridge in the New Year". Halton Council's leader said that "77%% of the costs will be paid for by the private sector." Really? We thought that the plan was that road users would pay through the nose for both the new bridge and the continued use of the old bridge, but we welcome this generosity.

    22 November 2005
    Trams difference of opinion
    Today's Daily Post reports that Merseytravel are unhappy with what was said at Liverpool City Council's Executive Board meeting on 18th November Minutes. The paper says that the project "has now ground to a halt", and the Post editorial says that it will be a disaster for Liverpool if the scheme is abandoned. "Ambush claim as tram funding row grows". Knowsley Council have so far said nothing.

    Tolls noose
    The Liverpool Echo and Daily Post have a blind spot when it comes to the Mersey Tunnels. They have another report about the need for a "second Mersey crossing". The first is apparently the Runcorn bridge, and the Tunnels don't exist. Even odder considering that Merseytravel are part of the consortium that are behind the "second" crossing. The consortium want 100 million from the Government, but the Post says that "the rest of the money would be from private contractors who would run the tolling operations which it is now accepted would be part of the new bridge." The Post neglects to say that they also want tolls on the existing bridge. Well you can always go further towards Manchester to escape the tolls noose:- "Gateway delegation in call for government backing".

    21 November 2005
    End of line for Tunnels Police?
    Tonight's Liverpool Echo says that British Transport Police may be merged into the Metropolitan Police and other forces. This is an old issue that was raised again after the London bombings. According to the Echo report, the Home Office is considering whether "Merseyside police, along with the tunnels police and airport police, should merge with another force". The possibility of Tunnels Police being merged with Merseyside Police was raised two years ago, but somehow this proposal disappeared. The Mersey Tunnels is as far as we know, the only toll road with its own Police Force, let us hope that this time the proposal does not disapear.

    Trams Vision
    Only one letter today in the Daily Post. It's from Graham Skinner of Liverpool Vision. He is apparently very keen that the trams scheme goes ahead. He does not mention the 40 million or so of tunnels tolls that will be used. We wonder if this is the same person who on the 17th June included in a letter to the Daily Post "the people of Merseyside and the Wirral are tolled every time we use the tunnels. Where is the justice in that?"

    19 November 2005
    Yesterday, the Executive Board of Liverpool City Council met to discuss the financing of the tram scheme and the Government requirement that Liverpool and Knowsley guarantee to meet any overspending. According to this morning's Daily Post, Liverpool have obtained legal advice that it would be illegal for them to do this. It appears that they have thrown the parcel back to the Government.
    The minutes of Friday's meeting are not yet available (see 21st), but we can see:- what Liverpool decided when this was dicussed two weeks earlier . Liverpool laid down various conditions. We are interested in the reference to "full transparency" - does this include not keeping things secret from the public?

    18 November 2005
    Trams Letters
    This week's Wirral Globe says that they "were inundated with letters, emails and phone calls of support" after they attacked the use of tolls to finance the trams. They have published four of the letters.
    The Wirral News published two letters last week, but this week there is nothing. Let us hope that this doesn't mean that none were sent!

    Merseytravel "Helping you on your way"
    The Wirral News does however have a 4 page colour supplement from Merseytravel. As well as mentioning things such as horseracing, ferry cruises and the spaceport, it has a couple of items on the tunnels one headed "Helping you on your way through the Mersey Tunnels" - No! They don't mean that they are getting rid of the tolls. They have also set up their own website at We're not sure why it's ".co" - they are not going to sell it off - are they?

    17 November 2005
    Worth the Pain?
    Sam Lister in today's Daily Post has a big feature on the massive disruption being caused by roadworks all over Merseyside. One person complains that it took 50 minutes just to get past traffic lights in James Street:- "'The end result will be worth the pain' (6 pages)". We will have to wait and see, but we suspect that once they have finished it will be no better for traffic than it was before. One roadworks on the Wirral is traffic light controlled with the road reduced to one lane. All that can be seen on the road is cones, which appear to be there solely to protect the traffic lights!

    Trams D Day 0
    Today was the latest final decision day for the tram, but the Daily Post reports that the Government have passed the parcel back to Liverpool and Knowsley, by insisting that they guarantee to finance any further increase in costs. The Liverpool Executive Board are to meet tomorrow:- "Government digs its heels in over cash for trams". A "source close to the Town Hall" said "What is wrong with Merseytravel agreeing to cover it. The company is in a better position than a local authority is to come up with the money." This is extremely odd, as Merseytravel is a local authority controlled by 18 councillors drawn from the 5 Merseyside districts. As far as we know the only profit is on - the Tunnels!

    16 November 2005
    Trams - How much will be charged to tolls?
    Various people have contacted councillors in Liverpool and the Wirral to protest against the use of tolls to finance the trams. One Liverpool councillor who supports the use of tolls, passed the letter on to Merseytravel. They have replied saying:- "...The Passenger Transport Authority has given assurances that the tolls will not be raised to fund the tram....It is true that Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority are considering whether to borrow 40m towards the cost of financing a small part of Line 1 Merseytram. The 40m will be serviced from surplus tunnel toll revenue ie it is the interest charge and principal that are being financed from this source, and not one single amount...."
    The person who received the letter replied "... Although assurances have been given that the tolls will not be raised again, to fund the trams, we believe that they were unnecessarily raised the last time, and are currently set to high....Thank you for emphasizing one of our points for us, not only do you intend to add the 40M loan to the tunnel debt, but the interest as well. Can you please tell me what the total cost will be to the tunnel users? Or do you intend to keep this behind closed doors as well?..." - We will let you know if we hear of any reply from Merseytravel!

    Trams Letters
    More letters in this morning's Daily Post in support of trams. They even got into a letter on "Benefits of wind" farms - "all the Wirral's residents want to do is consistently complain about anything, from tunnel tolls to scenic views. Is there anything else, Wirral, that you would like to moan about?" - Despite the repeated assertions of those who don't like tunnel users, we are not of course all from the Wirral!
    The Post has printed one letter on users side. It says "I am not a motorist but I am sure they will be hopping mad" and that using tunnels tolls "is just not on"

    Trams Deja Vu
    Strangely enough, Merseyside had the first street tramway in Europe. It opened in Birkenhead in 1860. It was horse-drawn and the brainchild of George Francis Train, an American who was the model for Phileas Fogg in "Around the World in 80 days". The tramway was electrified in 1901 but closed in 1937. On the other side of the river, Liverpool was close behind, it got trams in 1861, they were electrified in 1898 and closed in 1957. The Birkenhead Tunnel was designed and the main part built to carry trams, operating in the bottom half under the road deck. The Government opposed this as part of the cost was coming from the Road Fund, and they made a condition that if trams did run through the Tunnel then the Government could demand their money back. Birkenhead was also not too keen on trams as they thought it might attract people away from the ferries.
    Could anyone have ever dreamt that not only trams might come back, but that they would be paid for from tunnels tolls?

    15 November 2005
    Trams - D Day minus two
    Jessica Shaughnessy in the Daily Post reports another trams delegation down in London, and that a decision is expected in two days:- "Government decision on aid for trams in two days"

    Trams Letters
    Another letter in tonight's Echo complaining about "whining Wirralites". Though this time joined with the "narrow minded Queens Drive residents", and southerners who "know nothing of the needs of Liverpool".
    A tunnel user had a letter in this morning's Daily Post. They say ideally there should be "no tolls", but in the meantime tolls should only be used for the Tunnels. Though they doubt that those who benefit from tunnels users tolls will agree!

    Bidston Moss Viaduct
    Last night's Echo reports that cameras are to be used to enforce the temporary ban on lorries using the Bidston Moss viaduct, which is at the end of the M53 leading to the Wallasey tunnel. It appears that work is starting to strengthen the bridge. (If they stengthen it anymore it will sink through to Australia.) Even when the work is finished there will still be some restrictions! Highways Agency press release

    14 November 2005
    Trams Letters
    One in this morning's Post was complaining about people from Wirral who don't like the view of proposed new wind turbines and don't want tolls to pay for trams.
    In tonight's Echo, there were two letters. One was from a lady in Tranmenere who claimed that the MTUA chairman had said in a letter to the Echo that "no-one from the Wirral will benefit from the tram in Liverpool". Dave Loudon's letter did not even mention the Wirral! The writer also said how they loved to use the ferry. Most appropriate as the tunnels users have been subsidising the ferries for most of the last 70 years, to the tune of nearly 100 million in real terms. Perhaps there should be a plaque in honour of the tunnel users on the ferry?
    The other Echo letter wondered why the steel for the tram rails was coming from France, rather than "Scunthorpe, Middlesborough or Port Talbot".

    13 November 2005
    "Don't Dig it"
    No, it's not the trams! There have been many complaints on both sides of the river about the authorities and the roads. Roads that are closed off with nobody working on them, and when they are finished things are worse than before. Traffic lights that seem to be phased to cause maximum jams and so on. Maybe some of these complaints are not justified, but the authorities keep quiet. The "Don't Dig it" letter was in Wednesday's Liverpool Echo, from someone in Walton who gets the bus to work in Liverpool city centre. The letter was inspired by a journey that was only five minutes short of two hours (just enough time to do a Suduko!) third letter on the page

    12 November 2005
    More Trams Letters
  • Yesterday's Daily Post had a letter from the leader of the Tory group on Halton Council (home of the toll free Runcorn bridge). He is amazed that if the tunnels are still crippled with debt (Merseytravel have said that it will take till 2048 to pay it off), then how can they consider using tolls to pay for trams.
  • Last night's Liverpool Echo published a response from our Secretary - John McGoldrick - to a letter on the 8th:- "In "Wirral Sour Grapes", Mr Jones says that the Council tax subsidises the tunnels. This is not correct. Perhaps Mr Jones and the others who keep saying this could tell us all where they have got this idea from. They can also tell us that if the Council tax subsidises the tunnels, how can the tunnels subsidise the trams?" - We look forward to seeing the answer to this enigma!

    THANK YOU to those who have emailed us, councillors and papers on trams and tolls issue. People have also mentioned other issues - some old and some new - those that are repeatable include:-
  • Why can't tolls only be payable in one direction? - We asked this over two years ago, their answer was "About 10% of tunnel users would be expected to use the Runcoirn Bridge in the morning in order to travel home toll-free in the evening. This potential loss of toll income would be far greater than amy operational savings and would therefore require tolls to be more than doubled for other users" As you might guess we don't agree with Merseytravel.

  • Why were tolls designed so that the toll basket is so close to the manned change booth, that the next car in the queue for change can't reach the manned booth, till the car in front has put the money in the basket and moved on? - This could be by chance, or maybe to prolong the pleasure of queuing to give them your money or it could be to give the collectors a rest or ....?

  • Two weeks ago there was a lot of publicity as if the safety refuges were completed. What is happening now? - We don't know, but have recently asked some questions of our own.

  • Why is there a massive barricade (with hard shoulder closed) round the weight restriction warning sign as you come out of the Wallasey Tunnel and head for the M53? - Wish we knew, but we don't think that the answer is "42".

  • Why don't you take direct action to slow traffic in the Tunnels to get more attention from press and TV? - There are various ways that Tunnel traffic could be disrupted. But this happens without our help! And we do not want to add to the existing pain of tunnels users.

  • Don't believe you when you say "Somebody using the Tunnels on a regular basis, and starting work now, will have paid about 75,000 in tunnels tolls by the time that they retire.". - The 75,000 figure was calculated early this year, it assumed that Merseytravel will increase the tolls in line with Retail Price Index which at the end of 2004 was increasing at the rate of 3.5% a year. We calculated increases from 2005 up to 2048. We assumed 280 round trips a year, which is based on 5 journeys to work and 1 other journey a week, less holidays. At the moment RPI is "only" increasing about 3%, over the next 40 odd years who knows?

  • Why don't you stand against the councillors? - At local elections, people vote for a variety of reasons, but next May we will be asking all the candidates where they stand on the tolls issue and letting all tunnel users know. Let's hope that we don't have too many masochists.

  • 10 November 2005
    "On Yer Bike, Mike"
    This week's front page of the Wirral Globe is devoted to the tolls and trams:- "Globe comment on Liverpool City Council leader's call to use tunnel tolls cash for tram scheme".

    Roger Phillips
    Some of you may have heard last Friday's Roger Phillips show on Radio Merseyside, where the boss of Merseytravel was talking about the tram scheme and was asked about the tolls. We rang in to say that we didn't agree that only three per cent of Merseysiders use the Tunnels. Merseytravel told listeners that they would tell us where the figure came from. We are still not absolutely sure, but when this was raised at the Lords committee in March 2004, they told them that the origin of the three per cent was:- "The population of Merseyside is 1.35 million. The regular tunnel users are 40,000." It is not clear, but "regular tunnel users" seems to mean the number of vehicle journeys in one day divided by two. The Leader of Liverpool City Council and others have also used the "three per cent". For what we think of this, see the item on the 7th headed "Fair?".

    More trams letters
    Just one in last night's Echo. They suggest that Tunnels users should "stop moaning" and "stop whingeing". They also say "On an island in the inner Hebrides, people working in the nearest large town have to pay 5.70 per car and 1 per passenger ferry fare to get to work each day. They would be happy to pay only our tunnel tolls.". Wherever this island and large town maybe, Merseyside is the only place in Britain where you have to pay a toll to get from one side of a large conurbation to the other (the London Congestion charge zone is all inside the inner ring road).
    There were two letters in this morning's Daily Post, both amazed at the recent letters attacking tunnels users. One points out that a very large number of Liverpool residents use the tunnel to get to the Wirral and further afield" The other asks "Why don't you do a campaign setting out all the facts about the tunnel tolls and the use of the money?"

    9 November 2005
    Prince Charles backs Merseytram
    We are only kidding with the headline. But the Prince today told San Francisco that "I'm so glad you still have the wonderful evocative sounds of the trams." Trams were also in the news today as would be passengers on Manchester's tram system had to take a bus, as the tram was closed after heavy rain. Well Manchester does get more than us. Though we do win hands down when it comes to tolls, poor old Manchester hasn't got any, and their Labour council leader has said that he will oppose any attempt to introduce them.

    There are two letters from tunnel users in this week's Wirral News. One,"Tunnel Users suffering" has star billing and ended by saying how angry they were that only the one councillor (a Wirral Tory) voted against this and that "one response received from a councillor was that they thought it was more democratic to abstain as the majority were going to vote yes, a very odd view. Maybe somebody could give the Wirral councillors a lesson in what democracy is before they go into meetings."

    8 November 2005
    Tram, Tram, Tram, Tram
    More letters in tonight's Echo. One is headed "Wirral sour grapes". The writer "Mr Jones"seems to have fallen for the spin and believes that "Council taxes from all over Merseyside have been paying for the tunnels for years". Perhaps Mr Jones should be on the council.
    Another letter was from our chairman. Here it is. These points were not printed:-
  • The trams may even have an adverse impact on users of the Birkenhead Tunnel as the line will come quite close and may mean the demolition of the Churchill flyover.
  • Despite this lack of any benefit, Tunnel users who, according to statements by Mike Storey and Merseytravel make up 3 per cent of the population of Merseyside, are being told to hand over 40 million.

    7 November 2005
    Tram - Stop fussing it's only "inflation"
    The Liverpool Echo had another Tunnels letter tonight. Yes, as you probably guessed, it is another person who wonders why tunnels users are putting up such a fuss about being used as a cash cow, after all "The rest of us accepted inflation years ago. It's about time the Wirral did too."
    PS The Echo had another letter - this one said that the cost of driving "comes nowhere near covering the cost of the damage cars do to the planet". Perhaps Tunnels users need to recruit Atlas if all this burden is to be heaped on us by Merseytravel and their friends.

    Tram saga
  • We are still having difficulty finding out what is planned - all the reports are secret, and minutes so far published by Merseytravel have not mentioned it. We applied to Merseytravel for access to reports under the Freedom of Information Act, but they say that the reports are exempt. All that we officially know is in a letter from them that we received on the 4th which says to fund Merseytram Line 1 they propose to borrow about 40 million and "One option currently under active consideration is that this borrowing should be serviced, at least in part, from surplus tolls collected from those using the Mersey Tunnels."
    PS We eventually got this afternoon a copy of the minutes of the meeting on 31st October that agreed this (PS this was amended on 9th November to show the voting). If you can see where they have agreed to use tunnels tolls, then please let us know. Just think if it wasn't for open government we wouldn't even know that there was something to know. No?

  • Today's Daily Post says that a BIG delegation is going to see Tony Blair, to make sure the tram goes ahead. Will Cherie have enough cups and saucers?

    The leader of Liverpool City Council is reported to be in the trams delegation, and had been contacted by some of the tunnels users. His replies tried to justify the use of tunnel tolls. As he had opposed the Tunnels Bill, supported our proposals "A New Way Forward" (no toll increases, off peak half price tolls, Sundays free, and no tolls for buses) and had been reported as opposing the use of tunnels tolls to finance the trams scheme, we wrote to him expressing our disappointment and saying:- Your emails conclude:- "Contrast this situation with the funding of the Tunnels at the current time. The total number of Merseyside residents who use the tunnels amounts to 3%. 97% of the adult population on Merseyside do not use the tunnels, but pay for them via their Council Tax. Many people might say that this is not fair either."
    If you believe the Tunnels are being subsidised by council tax payers, can you explain how these loss making Tunnels are going to finance the trams scheme?
    I am surprised that from your experience you would think that 3% was a fair figure.
    Do you believe that the other 97% either always use the ferries and trains or never cross the river?
    About the only way that we can see that you can have calculated 3% is by taking the total population of Merseyside and dividing it by the number of vehicles using the tunnels on one day.
    This assumes that it is always the same vehicles using the tunnel every day of the year, that there is only one person in a vehicle (even buses!). It also includes children in the population, though we assume that none of these can drive or pay council tax. Will you confirm that this is how you arrived at 3%?
    The reality is that the Tunnels are some of the busiest roads on Merseyside and yet they are the only ones that are tolled. All other roads including the road that you live in, and the roads that you use to travel to the City Council offices, your work, shops, leisure, families, hospital etc, are probably used by less people than use the tunnels. But these roads, used by less than "3%", are all funded by either the local authorities or the Highways Agency, from out of council tax and general taxation.
    If you believe that 3% is correct, can you explain how it is fair for only this 3% to be the source for funding the shortfall in the financing of Tram Line One? If they had only been, say 1%, would this have been even fairer?
    You end "many people might say this is not fair either".
    Perhaps you can tell us if you think it was fair when Charles Kennedy voted for the Mersey Tunnels Bill, and then later welcomed the removal of tolls from his own constituency?
    Do you think it was fair when the Merseyside Liberal Democrat MP, who played a major role in getting the Tunnels Bill through the Commons, shortly afterwards said to the Minister in Parliament that the new Runcorn bridge should not be tolled?

    Tunnels users don't of course want to see tolls in either Mr Kennedy's constituency or on the Runcorn bridge. But then perhaps Tunnels users are being unfair, and the joy of paying tolls (and frequently having to queue for the privilege) should be far more widely spread.
    We look forward to seeing your reply.
    Xmas turkey
    Just one letter on trams in this morning's Daily Post - It was a reply from a tunnel user to the many letters published saying that tunnel users should be pleased to be financing the trams and users should stop moaning. The letter ends:-
    "So, I suppose following the closed meeting where the decision was made to use tunnel money, the spin doctors are now hard at work making the 40m loan, cross-subsidy or whatever you want to call it acceptable by dressing a pigeon up to look like a turkey just in time for Christmas"

    6 November 2005
    Trams Letters
    Just one letter in last night's Liverpool Echo, but it was given star billing. It is from Harry in Woolton. He says that the tunnels users should be pleased that their tolls will pay for the trams, as they will find it a lot easier to drive and park in the city centre:- Isn't it worth paying a few pounds a year now when it will save you so much in the future?"

    4 November 2005
    Liverpool City Council Executive Board (which is all Lib Dems) this morning gave their approval to the proposed financing of the trams. This was reported as if Liverpool was giving some money to it. But as far as we know (all the meetings on the trams financing have been held with secret reports and public and press excluded), Liverpool has only agreed to cover contingency costs. It is the tunnel users tolls that will be paying for about 40 million of the trams.
    Yesterday the Government stopped a similar scheme in Leeds, but it is doubtful that anything will stop the Liverpool trams.
    PS The Daily Post reported on the 5th that two members of the Executive Board voted against the proposed financing, but this may have been for reasons other than the use of tunnel tolls. The paper also reports that the leader of Liverpool's Labour Group says that Liverpool should have given a blank cheque. He says without that, the scheme may still not go ahead.

    Trams letters
    There were two more letters from tunnel users in last night's Echo:- "Tolls madness" and "Poor use of funds". There were four more in this morning's Daily Post, two in favour of using Tunnels users as a cash cow and two against - one from our secretary - John McGoldrick.
    One of the regulars who doesn't like Tunnels users goes by the title "Name and address supplied". Their letter starts "Quite frankly, I find certain Wirral residents very selfish and self-centred. All they think about is themselves." and ends "You are sending out a very selfish message across the river" - we're sure that most Tunnels users would be quite happy to let this person have their wallets, if only we knew where to send them.
    Another letter in support of using Tunnels users as a cash cow is from someone who says they are a regular tunnel user. Despite this they say that The narrow-minded Wirral motorists who keep whining" should stop using the Tunnels and come in by train or bus, (they don't explain if these buses float or they go through the Tunnels and pay tolls).

    3 November 2005
    Representation of the people
    Over recent weeks we and some of our members have been contacting Liverpool and Wirral Councillors about the issue of tolls financing the trams. There have been a few answers.
    Liverpool council is almost wholly Lib Dem. The Liverpool leader, Mike Storey, has in the past backed tunnels users, but his group backs Merseytravel and the use of tolls to finance the trams. We have asked him why, but he has not answered. The Liverpool Lib Dems are reported to be influenced by a councillor for Cressington ward, an area in which most tunnel users could not afford to live.
    This councillor apparently thinks that "97% of the population of Merseyside, including myself, do not use theTunnels, but pay for the 3% who do. Now it is time we had some back." Perhaps he ought to check some of the information on our web site, though if he never uses the tunnels, perhaps he will not care to do so.
    Another Liverpool councillor has a letter in today's Daily Post about drivers complaining about Liverpool's unfriendly policy. He implies that there is no "real congestion" and says "I always use my car to travel to the city centre" - Will he be opposing the use of tunnel tolls?
    On the Wirral, the Labour councillors are mainly silent about why their Leader said they would oppose this but they have not voted against it, and may have voted for it.
    Wirral Lib Dems are also mainly silent, but to the extent that they say anything we can not comprehend it - they say that they would like the tunnels to be free, but they supported the Mersey Tunnels Bill, and have not opposed the tolls being used to finance the trams.
    The one Wirral Tory on the Merseytravel board has bravely opposed this, but it remains to be seen whether the Wirral Tories as a whole will do any more.

    "Outrageous plunder of Tunnels tolls!"
    This is what we might have expected to see in this week's Wirral papers. But perhaps no one is interested, because in the Wirral Globe we have nothing at all, and in the Wirral News there is a full page spread (and Merseytravel advert) about all the money being spent on building a "safe refuge for tunnel users". They can't mean us, can they?

    Rich Man Rides to rescue Trams at 11th hour - or maybe not
    The Daily Post today carries an odd story "I'll invest my fortune to save tram scheme" about a millionaire who has offered to help finance the tram scheme. Merseytravel are apparently taking this seriously! The Daily Post says that the millionaire "compared the uncertainty over the Merseytram project with the plans during the 1930s to build the Mersey Tunnels. This situation does mirror what happened back then with people backing away from the project. Just imagine if they never found the nerve to actually go ahead and build the tunnels." The millionaire and the Daily Post does not otherwise mention the tunnels, but the Editor welcomes this move. Does this mean that they will not be using the tunnels tolls? Maybe in some bizarre Matrix like virtual world controlled by millionaires, Merseytravel and media moguls, but in the real world we reckon that they still intend to use the tolls.

    2 November 2005
    More Trams letters in Daily Post
    There are six letters today. We are pleased to say that 5 are opposed to the the use of tunnel tolls to salvage the trams scheme. Here is part of the sixth letter:-
    "I'm fed up with the constant moaning of people (always from Wirral when they let you print their address) about the use of tunnel tolls to subsidise the tram network... I don't know why people are so indignant about the situation ... Also I'm fed up hearing the argument that the people of Wirral are being used to subsidise public transport for the people of Liverpool. Do these people in their ivory towers really believe that the ferries make money or their semi rural bus services? It's time the people of Wirral joined the real world. Their transport has been subsidised by the people of Liverpool, Sefton, Knowsley and St Helens for a fair amount of time and now its payback." The writer of the other letters give their names but this is "name and address supplied".

    Lib Dems back trams despite warning
    This morning's Post gives details "Officers' warnings rejected as Lib-Dems back the tram" of the Lib Dems decision to back the tram. Andy Kelly, says that the Lib Dems made their decision after a "passionate speech" from Peter Millea - a councillor for the Cressington ward, member of Merseytravel board and member of Liverpool Council's Executive Board. The Lib Dems were warned of risks by senior officers of Liverpool City Council. A lot of money has alraedy been committed to this scheme, and the Post says that some of the steel that is required for the tram lines has already been imported from France.
    The Post does not mention the use of Tolls - unbelievably there is still no official record of what they plan to do.
    We have contacted the Leader of Liverpool City Council about this, as he had said that he was opposed to the use of tolls. We have not had a reply.

    1 November 2005
    Liverpool meeting on Friday 4th already decided?
    According to tonight's Liverpool Echo, the Lib Dems who control Liverpool City Council have met and agreed to support Merseytravel tram financing. The Echo does not mention the use of tunnel tolls, but then the authorities don't want to alarm people till it is too late. The meeting of the Liverpool Executive Board that will officially make the decision is on Friday.

    Merseytravel Testimonials
    In the morning before yesterday's crucial meeting, the Daily Post published 3 letters on the Tunnels:-
  • Mr or Mrs Jones wrote in to say how "it is good to see that Merseytravel is investing ... to make the tunnel safer".
  • Someone from St Asaph wrote "as an almost daily user of the tunnels ... I have no objection to some profit being used for the trams".
  • A "name and address supplied" wrote "I really wish the proceeds of the tunnel tolls were put to good use to help other parts of the Merseyside transport network. I don't know why anyone is surprised at this proposal. Isn't it what private industry does, too? Use more profitable arms of the business to help improve and innovate in weaker areas. It's a sensible policy Merseytravel should be applauded for."

    31 October 2005
    Merseytravel Trams Meeting
    The 18 councillors on the Merseytravel board met this afternoon, to settle what will be happening with Line One of the trams scheme. The financing report is not available to the public, but we believe that it included borrowing 40 million, to be repaid using Tunnels tolls. We understand that this was agreed, with only one councillor voting against - a Wirral Tory.
    We are horrified that councillors have agreed to use tunnels tolls to salvage Merseytravel's trams scheme. Tunnels tolls were already being used to subsidise the Ferries, and now we will also be used as a cash cow to subsidise trams users.
    It is disturbing that this has been shrouded in secrecy. The reports that deal with this have been kept from the public. All we know about this so far, is from the press who somehow knew what was going on.
    With the exception of the one Tory, we are very disappointed with the councillors from Liverpool and the Wirral. Mike Storey, the Lib Dem leader of Liverpool, and Steve Foulkes the Labour leader of Wirral, both said that they would oppose this, and we hope that they will still act to stop the use of tunnels tolls.
    We wonder when we can expect the next toll increase from Merseytravel, and whether they have other secret plans for spending the tolls.

    28 October 2005
    Final Trams Decision?
    The Merseytravel Board is meeting on Monday (31st) to make a decision on the trams and the use of tunnels tolls to help finance it. At least we assume so, because the report that councillors will see, on the financing of the trams, can not be seen by members of the public.

    Trams Reports
    This week's Wirral Globe and Wirral News carry reports on the trams issue.
  • Wirral Globe "Toll cash may pay for tunnel scheme". The report says that the Labour Leader of Wirral Council said "My members on the MPTA abstained at the MPTA meeting, which effectively acted as a vote against.They were under enormous pressure from the rest of Merseyside on this issue. I am proud of the stance they took - they did not support a 40m loan to rescue the tram project." So he is proud that they sat on their hands, rather than voting against. Let us hope that at the meeting on Monday, they make him even prouder by supporting Wirral and voting against using tolls to help pay for the 400 million tram scheme.
  • Wirral News "MP outraged at tunnel toll plan". Stephen Hesford, the Labour MP for West Wirral, repeats his opposition to the use of tunnel tolls and says: "This scramble to seek to fund Merseytram at any cost is disgraceful.". We applaud him and wish that other MPs who battled long and hard against the Tunnels Bill, were still seen to be supporting the hard pressed tunnels users.

    27 October 2005
    Yesterday's Post & Echo carried a story "Queensway... safe way" about the safety spending in the "Queensway" tunnel (Merseytravel call the Birkenhead tunnel "Queensway"). It seems that the 19 month long 9 million scheme is nearly complete. We referred recently to the mystery as to whether they were really "exits". It looks as if it may soon become clearer, and there are more details at Merseytravel press release. In any case we have applied for more information using the Freedom of Information Act. By coincidence, yesterday there was a derailment in one of Merseyrail's tunnels. The report in tonight's Echo from Luke Traynor and Adrian Butler "Fear in the dark" says that "Conditions in the tunnel were horrible." Someone from the Fire Brigade says "It was extremely dark and unpleasant and very slippy in the tunnel, with debris lying around." Fortunately, road tunnels in Britain, even without the recent spending, are a lot safer than both rail tunnels and ordinary roads. But we again remind Tunnels users of the general advice when there is a fire in a road tunnel:- "Not waiting to be told what to do if there is a fire ahead, and knowing that they should pull over to the left, switch off the engine, leave keys in the ignition and move swiftly away from the fire to the nearest emergency exit, or to the tunnel entrance."

    Trams and "Open" Government
    Merseytravel and Liverpool and Wirral Councils will not let the public see the reports on the use of tolls. All we know is what has been reported in the Daily Post and Echo. But today we at last managed to get a copy of the Minutes of the Merseytravel meeting on 17th October. This was the meeting that apparently agreed the use of 40 million of tunnels tolls to finance the trams, but the minutes do not even mention it.

    26 October 2005
    Trams, Trams, Trams
  • Andy Kelly in today's Daily Post says that the trams scheme is virtually certain to go ahead - using our Tunnel tolls:- "300m Merseytram deal is now 'tantalisingly close'".
  • It has been pointed out to us that Wirral Council cabinet at a meeting on 20th October resolved "That Wirral Council, having regard to the impact on council tax payers and tunnel tolls, cannot support the Merseytram scheme in its present form." Minute 294. As you can see from the minutes, the reports on this are still being withheld from the public by Wirral council, as well as Liverpool council and Merseytravel.
  • More letters in tonight's Echo from the people who don't approve of Tunnels users. One writer seems to think that all Tunnel users are travelling to Liverpool city centre and we "will find it an undemanding place to reach". Unless you are a strong swimmer, Merseytavel have a monopoly over all ways of getting between Liverpool and the Wirral, and most people are going beyond the city centre.
    They also say that it "would be catastrophic if the people who are at the heart of our culture, and who played their part in gaining us this historic feat, were to be left behind". If the trams scheme does not go ahead it may be a catastrophe for Merseytravel, but many other people will breathe a sigh of relief.

    25 October 2005
    Trams letter - "You have got to be dreaming"
    Today, the Daily Post published this reaction from our chairman, Dave Loudon, to some of the pro tolls letters published last week:- "The fact is that tunnels users from both sides of the Mersey do not want to be treated as cash cows.
    The surpluses on the Mersey Tunnels should be used in the way that we proposed a year ago:- no toll increases, no tolls for buses, half price tolls off-peak and no tolls at all on Sundays. Even better, perhaps some of the vast amount of public money that is going into this trams scheme, could be used to remove the tolls completely. This seems fair, as roads users pay 50 billion a year in taxes. We suspect somehow that this will not happen. And as for the editor's comment in the Daily Post on Tuesday (18th) - that tunnel users would take some comfort from an assurance that there would be no toll increases - you have got to be dreaming."
    Today's paper also carried a letter from a reader in Bebington. This person is full of praise for Merseytravel bosses. The letter says that for"those concerned about tunnel tolls ... we can always use the Merseyrail system" - Wouldn't it be funny if people could and did stop using the Tunnels, where would they get the money from then?

    22 October 2005
    "Drivers facing fresh assault in city roads war"
    The main story in this morning's Daily Post is a proposal by Liverpool City Council to have "red routes". These are already used in London, and mean that draconian measures are taken against drivers who stop. Liverpool Chamber of Commerce seem to support this, but the Post talks of "beleagured motorists" and says that the Council is driving people away from the city to shop in places like the Trafford Centre, and that those who "have to drive to work will seek jobs elsewhere, before resorting to long and inconvenient journeys on public transport"
    Whether this particular policy is bad or good, may depend on how it is implemented. Many councillors have the best intentions, but the effect of what they do do, and what they fail to do, usually means that roads become more congested - they fail to build new roads, they restrict parking spaces, they narrow and close roads, they bring in 1,001 ways of impeding the progess of traffic.
    They will soon tell us that we need to pay more tolls on more roads, in order to reduce the congestion that they are responsible for.

    Wirral Council and Trams
    On Thursday night (20th), Wirral Council's Cabinet decided that it would not support the tram scheme because of the effect on tunnel tolls and council tax payers. It remains to be seen what effect this will have on the use of tolls. We have still not been able to see a copy of the Merseytravel proposal or what the councillors on Merseytravel board have agreed.

    21 October 2005
    Trams Letters
    There have been a few letters in the Post about the trams. Yesterday one of the Wirral councillors, Geoffrey Watt, had a letter which in part pointed out that there was one vote against using tunnel tolls - Jacquie McKelvie, Tory councillor for Pensby and Thingwall. (The full voting was that 9 councillors voted for use of tolls, 1 was against, 5 abstained, and 3 were not there.)
    Today there were some letters supporting the use of tunnels tolls to put the tram scheme back on the rails. The writers said that they supported this because tunnels users included people from Liverpool, and one said "Here we go again: people from the other side of the water moaning about tunnel fees.". For our reaction, see the 25th news.

    18 October 2005
    "News" on Trams
    We are still unable to uncover from either Merseytravel or Wirral Council what is behind the reports that tolls will be used to help pay for the trams. Though this has been in the news for several months, it appears that even the councillors on Merseytravel board knew nothing about it till last week. They now know, whatever it is, but we still don't know because meetings last week and this were held with press and public excluded.
    Though the press were excluded, the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo appear to know what has been agreed - they say that 40 million pounds of tolls is to go to the trams "Tunnel tolls will pay back loan to save Merseytram".
    The Daily Post editorial is headed "A bitter pill for tunnels users". They say that this decision "will once again infuriate that most put-upon group of sitting- target Merseytravel victims, the tunnels users".
    The editorial ends "We are assured that there is no intention to actually increase the tolls to help pay for the trams. That, at least will be some comfort to the tunnels users." - Anyone want to bet that tolls will not go up?

    "Can't wait to leave" - Reply
    Further to the story on the 15th, last night's Echo had a letter which said that the Big Dig was only a "little scratch" and complained about "the continued selfishness of those who run the city down because it does not personally pander to their every need". We wonder if the writer was someone who unlike the writer of the original letter - does not work a late shift, does not have childcare to consider, does not have to travel far to work, but does make a lot of use of the heavily subsidised trains.
    PS - "Transport Woes" After we put this on the website, the writer of the original letter had her own reply in the Echo on the 20th (2nd letter on the page).

    15 October 2005
    No News on Trams
    We have so far failed to find out what is behind the reports that tolls will be used to help pay for the trams.

    "Can't wait to leave"
    Wednesday's Echo had a letter from someone in Woolton who works on the outskirts of Liverpool city centre. Because of the various anti car measures they no longer shop in the city centre and are looking for a new job. It could be worse - they could have to pay Tunnels tolls as well! Echo Letters 12th October.
    One city that has a lot in common with Liverpool is Edinburgh. They both have a long history and are close to the sea. They both have the authorities wanting trams. They both suffer from what appear to be anti car measures, though at least Edinburgh gave its people a vote on the tolls! - "I DON'T KNOW WHERE WE'RE GOING".

    14 October 2005
    "Another turn of the screw for city drivers"
    Larry Neild reports on more traffic restrictions in Liverpool City Centre. The main one is that you won't be able to turn right into James Street from the Strand. To make sure that you don't just drive along and turn up Water Street, they are also blocking off gap in central reservation there. It appears that they may also be turning some of the lanes on the Strand into buses only:- Daily Post.

    12 October 2005
    Road Works for who's benefit?
    Yesterday a public inquiry began into the scheme to widen Edge Lane. The supposed intention is to improve the link between the end of the M62 at Queens Drive and the city centre. But the report in last night's Liverpool Echo says that the Inquiry was told by the authorities that "The scheme deliberately provides only very modest reductions in vehicle delays". We commend the authorities for their honesty - now we know that they will spend millions, demolish a lot of property, cause massive traffic disruption, and at the end of all this they will have done their best not to reduce traffic delays. Perhaps someone will reveal why.
    PS The Echo published our comments on the letters page of the 15th.

    8 October 2005
    Park 'n Ride
    Yesterday's Liverpool Echo says that Merseytravel has plans to set up 17 more park and ride schemes:- "Park and ride to beat the Big Dig".
    We are in favour of park 'n ride. But these schemes will make little difference to most Tunnels users as they are not travelling to Liverpool city centre. They are however affected by the numerous roads schemes, with doubts as to whether the schemes are designed to improve the capacity of roads.

    5 October 2005
    Trams PS
    The story was in last night's Liverpool Echo:- "Merseytram deadline extended". It said that Merseytravel "wants to use 40m surplus cash from Mersey tunnel charges". Councillors have told us that Merseytravel deny this.
    The tram was the main item on Radio Merseyside News this morning. Tolls were not mentioned, it said that the scheme was going ahead and the only possible problem was if Liverpool City Council refused to give financial guarantees.

    More road works
    The Daily Post reports that work starts on Monday October 10 on resurfacing of the A550 Welsh Road between the junction with the A41 (Chester Road) at Hooton, and the junction with the A540 at Two Mills. The work will last for 6 months with the road closed for most of the time. Highways Agency map or Highways Agency leaflet with map (pdf file)
    Work is due to start the same day on the Arrowe Park roundabout, and yes it will also last six months! These works will cause chaos and congestion over a wide area and particularly on alternative routes such as the M53.
    We don't mind road works providing that they don't put the cones up and then do nothing, and providing that things are better after the works than before. We will keep our fingers crossed, but we are not optimistic.

    4 October 2005
    Tolls financing Trams is a "paper exercise" ...
    Someone contacted the Wirral councillors about the report that 40 million of tolls was to be used for the trams. One of the Wirral councillors replied that this was not true and:- "There is a suggestion that Merseytravel could use revenue finances, not surplus profit, from the tunnels to borrow an equivalent amount from the banks to support the trams. This is a purely paper exercise with only the repayments in dispute at this time."
    It is not explained what the difference is between "revenue finances" and "surplus profit" or what this "paper exercise" is. If anything this seems to in effect confirm that they do want to use Tunnels tolls.

    ... Sounds real to us
    The story appears again in today's Daily Post:- "40m debt riding on future of Merseytram"
    The 40m in the headline appears to refer to the amount that is already committed to the tram scheme, whether it goes ahead or not. But 40m is also the amount that is said to be being borrowed by Merseytravel, and "The transport authority intends to pay its loan back using excess money from the tunnel tolls." It says that they can do this "under the terms of the Mersey Tunnels Act".

    28 September 2005
    Plan to give 40 million of tolls to trams
    It looked as if the idea of using Tunnels tolls to pay for the tram scheme had been stopped. But according to the Liverpool Echo it is still alive:- "Trams cash rescue"

    Liverpool does not subsidise the Tunnels
    Last week, an Echo reader referred to comments from L Barden of Heswall that tolls were high (see 20 September "Rare Visitor") and implied that Tunnels spending was financed by "Liverpool council taxpayer" rather than "visitor from Heswall". Last night, the Liverpool Echo published our response:- "A COTTON (Letters, Sept 22) refers to a story in the ECHO (Sept 16) about "a 74m scheme to make the tunnels safer". The writer seems to think this is being paid for by the "Liverpool council taxpayer". The story in the ECHO in fact refers to a 7m scheme to provide so called "emergency escapes". This and all other tunnels spending is financed from tolls and Merseytravel is already using some of the tolls to fund non-tunnels spending. "
    27 September 2005
    Liverpool back trams
    Saturday's Liverpool Echo said that Liverpool was backing the trams but will not support using Tunnels tolls to subsidise the tram. Instead, Liverpool are also asking the Government to give another 66 million. "Tram plan backed by city chiefs"
    Liverpool had also suggested that they could levy a special tram tax. But Robe Merrick reports today that the Government have knocked that idea on the head (no doubt to the relief of most people):- Daily Post - "Minister dashes tram tax hopes"

    More on Car Free Day
    Saturday's Liverpool Echo and Monday's Daily Post had more letters from angry people reacting to the congestion caused by Liverpool City Council as part of "Car Free" Day. This included people stuck on buses on the Dale Street flyover for over 30 minutes. Though there was one person from Wavertree who looked forward to a complete ban on all cars in the city centre.

    23 September 2005
    War on Roads Users
    Yesterday was European Car Free Day, so Liverpool City Council closed Castle Street Daily Post - "Liverpool's Car Free Day brings city centre chaos "
    Maybe we are lucky that they didn't close all the roads! And again Liverpool Chamber of Commerce seems to side with those who want to drive us off the road.
    All over the country the politicians seem to do their best to punish roads users. Here are a few local examples:- Cone of Contention The Big Dig and other roads works in Liverpool have been causing chaos. Some of this chaos seems unneccesary with lanes sometimes coned off in e.g. Edge Lane even though nothing is being done. There is also a horrible suspicion, that all this work is not to make things better for the motorist.
    On the 29th August in the Echo, the "organisation" of the Big Dig and the drive to discourage cars was criticised by Peter Stoney, an economist at Liverpool Universirty. He said that there should be easier car parking, and more park and ride schemes, and if needed we should have more buses and not trams. He also said on the plans to demolish the Churchill flyover:- "any thoughts that it should go are just perverse".
    Hospital Parking - Arrowe Park is the latest hospital where it seems parking charges (2 a go) will be introduced. Drivers contribute over 40 billion more in taxes than is spent on roads. And that is before the added burden of tunnels tolls. Why should staff, patients and visitors to a hospital have to contribute even more if they come by car? Some of those who come by car, might otherwise have had to come by ambulance. How much would that cost the health authority?
    Useless new roads One example is the Saughall Massie by pass on the Wirral. The road is a new one, but for some reason they did not built it straight and did not put a roundabout in where the new road joins Saughall Massie. They then put a 30 mph limit on this rural road! Best of all, the road ends at Four Lane Ends, with apparently no plans to replace the country lanes (though if they were built like the new road, then they might as well leave the old lanes).

    21 September 2005
    Less Road "Obstruction"- More Barges
    We have previously reported that if the go ahead is given for a new Runcorn bridge, it seems that they will put tolls on both the new and the existing bridge. We have also reported (see 27th June and earlier) that they have said that they may also close 2 of the 4 lanes on the existing bridge.
    Two weeks ago there was another hint as to what is in store. It appears that they are looking at reopening some canal locks at Runcorn and "It is hoped that if the second Mersey crossing gets the go-ahead 90% of existing traffic will be redirected, leaving room to remove the present obstruction." Weekly News - "Mayor on board campaign"

    20 September 2005
    More on Trams
    It is a month since we added any news (apart from closures). During that time the main item in the papers has been bringing back trams. This is very popular, judging by the letters and editorials in the Liverpool Echo and Daily Post. But the MTUA is concerned about the effect on the roads and in particular on the Tunnels where one of the flyovers might be demolished. We are also interested in how the trams are being financed.
    There have been various stories that Tunnels tolls may be used. The Daily Post reported on the 8th September that Wirral Council, led by Labour councillor Steve Foulkes, was opposing this:- "Time running out for Merseytram scheme". (It was reported in today's Daily Post, that Mike Storey is also opposed to using tolls.)
    There was more in Saturday's Daily Post and Liverpool Echo. The Daily Post says that treasurers of the five Merseyside districts have looked at the finances of the tram, and says where tunnels money might come from "A primary source of this funding would be the use of tunnel toll fee income by reducing the level of contribution to the repairs and renewals fund." The Daily Post reports that Merseytravel say that this is "simply not true". The Daily Post gives a breakdown of the figures from the five treasurers:- Cost of Tram Line One is 316 million including 30 million contingency. The grant from the Goverment is 174 million, there is another 75 million from various sources, leaving a gap of 67 million..
    Yesterday's Daily Post says that Merseytravel say that the report of the five treasurers is biased, and they may call in the District Auditor:- "Merseytravel condemns treasurers' 'biased' report".

    Fuel Protest
    We all know that taxes on the use of roads are far too high. Roads taxes are around 50 billion a year, but roads spending is only about 7 billion. Despite this those opposed to tolls did not agree with or support any action that would directly or indirectly disrupt fuel supplies. Our chairman, Dave Loudon also sent this letter, that was published in the Daily Post and Liverpool Echo:- "Drivers are rightly concerned about fuel prices and are calling on the Government to reduce the 47 pence a litre fuel duty. The duty works out at about five to sixpence a mile. For a driver doing 10,000 miles a year that's 500 to 600. But a driver going to work through the Tunnels will pay over 600 a year in tolls. That's as bad as paying the fuel duty twice.
    Whichever way you look at it, drivers, particularly those who have to use the Tunnels, are just a cash cow for the politicians."
    Emergency "Escapes"
    The issue of the "escapes" was first raised by a reader of the Wirral News. There have since been a few letters published. For those who missed it here was the last letter from us published on 17th August:- Some weeks ago you published a letter about the safety "constructions" in the Birkenhead Tunnel and the lack of clear signs. On the 27th July, there was an answer from the Mersey Tunnels General Manager. In the opinion of the Tunnel users, not only has the point not been dealt with, but a fresh question is raised. The Tunnel Manager refers to the "new emergency exits". In the interests of safety this must be clarified, as the new constructions in the Birkenhead Tunnel have elsewhere been described as "refuges" or "bunkers" and not as "exits".The Tunnels Manager also says that in any emergency, the "Tunnel Police will be on the scene to assist motorists."
    We hope that all users of the Tunnels will be aware of the advice of the AA Motoring Trust in the event of a fire in road tunnels:-
    "Not waiting to be told what to do if there is a fire ahead, and knowing that they should pull over to the left, switch off the engine, leave keys in the ignition and move swiftly away from the fire to the nearest emergency exit, or to the tunnel entrance."
    Cone game
    Saturday night's Echo had a letter from someone in Aigburth complaining about traffic lanes near the Albert Dock being coned off for no apparent reason. Here is a letter from us (to the Wirral Globe) that wasn't published:- "On Thursday afternoon (1st September) when travelling from the north end of Liverpool to the Wirral, a set of cones was blocking off the entrance to the Wallasey tunnel. Having travelled towards the city centre and turned round and approached the tunnel in the other direction, you could see that the entrance seemed to have been blocked so that one man could carry out some work on one of the walls on the approaches. Then going through the tunnel, one of the two tubes was coned off, as is regularly the case.
    Exiting the tunnel, and going towards the M53, the first half mile of the cutting had one lane coned off, but there was nothing happening and no sight of anybody.
    Is the aim to eventually close all the lanes?"
    Rare Visitor
    Friday night's Echo had a letter from a Heswall reader. They say "I rarely pop over to Liverpool, largely beacuse I don't like to pay the tunnel fees and parking charges, but I decided to make a visit. How sorry I am that I bothered. I couldn't believe that the tunnel fees were 1.30 each way. I won't be bothering to come to Liverpool again."

    19 September 2005
    More Closures
    The Birkenhead Tunnel was due to be closed to all traffic travelling from Liverpool to Birkenhead over the 5 nights from Monday 26 September to Friday 30 September. The Liverpool Echo on 16th September unusually had the closures as a story. Merseytravel always say that the closures are for "maintenance". This time the Echo said that closures "are necessary to provide emergency escapes within the tunnel as part of a 7m scheme." It also said that Merseytravel say that work on the "emergency escapes" is nearly complete.

    20 August 2005
    Traffic Delay
    On Wednesday afternoon the Police closed a stretch of the M56 because of a suspicious van parked at Hapsford Services (between Ellesmere Port and Helsby). This caused extensive traffic chaos over a wide area of West Cheshire.
    Jessica Shaugnessy's report in Daily Post said "It also had a huge knock-on effect on the approach to the Wallasey tunnel in Wirral, with long queues of traffic forming on the dual carriageway from the M53. The problem was compounded by the Birkenhead tunnel being closed to traffic from Wirral for safety work."

    16 August 2005
    Trams Yesterday
    The recent controversy about Tunnels tolls subsidising trams is not new. Merseytravel themselves raised it when the Tunnels Bill was briefly before the Opposed Bills Cttee of the Commons, on the 30th January 2003, their counsel said:- "196. There has been a suggestion that the surpluses should be entirely spent in the Wirral or entirely spent in the Wirral and the City of Liverpool, those being the two ends of the tunnel. I just suggest to the Committee five reasons why that would not be appropriate.
    197. The first, which I term the integrated transport argument, is that public transport schemes do not respect district boundaries ... (refers to map etc) ... where one sees a plan of the proposed Merseyside tramway system. I make it quite plain that that system may or may not go ahead. It is at present their number one transport priority but it will have to go through its own statutory procedures. As the Committee would expect, when you put in a major scheme for a tram, you do not just put in a tram within a particular district council's boundaries. Line one, for instance, starts in Knowsley before it comes into the City of Liverpool. I just mention that as an example."

    14 August 2005
    "Trams Today"
    Last night's Liverpool Echo had this letter from a reader in Liverpool 12 (West Derby):- "I strongly disagree with recent anti-Merseytram comments. This pollution-free light railway will create thousands of jobs and permanently enhance the city centre."
    "Money from tunnel charges must be used to help finance it."
    "20% of Manchester's tram passengers are motorists who park and ride or leave their cars at home. The same thing will happen in Liverpool when the trams arrive, freeing up many spaces in the city centre, so parking will be much easier for the thousands of Wirral tunnel-users who earn all their money here."
    Trams are powered by electricity. At the margin, electricity comes from burning oil or gas.
    If 20% of the tram passengers are motorists, then 80% of them must otherwise have gone on the bus. What will the bus companies think of having to compete with trams that will have benefited from hundreds of millions of pounds subsidy?
    Many of the cars that go though the tunnels are going towards the Wirral, and most of the cars going through to Liverpool are not going to the city centre, and many of those people that are going to the city centre through the tunnels are going by bus. None of these will benefit from these supposedly empty city centre parking spaces. But people on both sides of the river may be inconvenienced by the building of the tram network, road restrictions when the trams are operating, and the demolition of a tunnels flyover.

    13 August 2005
    "Time to buck up"
    The Daily Post yesterday published this letter from John Augoustis:- "Is it any wonder that the number of people travelling to Liverpool from the Wirral to shop is declining when there are high tunnel tolls, restrictions on the roads and a hefty hike in parking charges?
    My wife and I went to Mold where we paid 20p for three hours' parking, with no tunnel tolls and a range of shops where you could buy almost everything you could wish...."
    Tunnels tolls are a major financial and psychological barrier to crossing the river in both directions for a wide variety of purposes.

    Birkenhead Tunnel "Exits"
    On 3rd August we reported on the response from the Mersey Tunnels to the letter in the Wirral News from a Bebington reader about the safety "constructions" in the Birkenhead Tunnel and the lack of clear signs.
    The Wirral News have not published our concern that people may be confused, but they have published a further letter from R Lawton of Bebington:- "I would like to thank John Gillard for his reply to my recent letter expressing concern over the lack of signage for the new safety provisions in the Birkenhead tunnel.
    Now I know the new constructions are not functional, I would suggest to him that he, perhaps, makes his other "customers" (after all, we do pay to use this facility), who do not read this paper or travel from outside the area, aware of the fact.
    I am sure some simple NOT IN USE signs and directional signage would be informative and help travellers in an emergency situation.
    With all due respect to Mr Gillard, should an incident occur similar to those in London recently, I cannot see the Tunnel Police entering the tunnel initially to assist the motorists.
    Effective safety measures are essential and time is of the essence. For the sake of some minimal financial outlay giving clear directions and signage, lives could be saved. Would Mr Gillard have a clear conscience should something as horrendous as the 7/7 attack in London happen?"
    It is not clear in what circumstances the Birkenhead Tunnel safety "constructions", which have been referred to as "exits" or "escapes", will be used. Nor is it clear whether in those circumstances, it would be physically possible for the Tunnel Police to "be on the scene to assist motorists".

    "No more pain on tunnel tolls" PS
    Further to our report on the 10th, the Liverpool Echo on the 11th kindly published a response from our chairman. Here is the full letter we sent:- Tuesday's Echo indicated Tunnels tolls may be used to pay for the trams scheme.
    Tunnels users have already paid 570 million in tolls. We don't want to pay more for trams or anything else.
    Tolls already discourage people and businesses from crossing the river in both directions and isolate Wirral, and West Cheshire, from the rest of Merseyside.
    I wonder what visitors to the Open Golf championship in 2006 and the Capital of Culture in 2008, will think about having to queue to pay an expensive road toll to travel between Liverpool and the Wirral.
    The Wirral News and the Wirral Globe both repeat the story, first reported in the Daily Post on the 6th, that Steve Foulkes, Labour leader of Wirral Council, is opposing the use of Tunnels tolls to pay for trams:-:-  Globe - "Tunnel fees must not be spent on city trams".
    As we told Geoff Barnes in the Globe - Councillor Foulkes' statement is welcome, but is "a bit of an about face". Both Wirral Labour and Liberal Democrat groups had not opposed the Mersey Tunnels Bill and, earlier this year, had voted against a Tory motion at Wirral Council calling for tunnel charges to be scrapped.

    10 August 2005
    "No more pain on tunnel tolls"
    This was the headline on the Editorial Comment in last night's Liverpool Echo. The Echo at one time was in the vanguard against the tolls, but reversed it's position a few years ago. It's nice to see that they still remember us!
    What caused the comment was a further story (from Nick Coligan) about the tolls being used to finance the trams:-  "Tunnels tram fear".

    9 August 2005
    Post Letters
    There is another letter in this morning's Daily Post about tolls being used to finance trams. F Barker from New Ferry says:- ".... As for the suggestion that hard-pressed tunnel users should be used to pay off massive loans to fund this scheme, it is outrageous to expect tunnel users to bail project leaders out of the mess."
    Another letter asks if anyone is surprised that the Government have "shelved" talks on a second Mersey bridge, and suggests that if it was nearer to Manchester than Liverpool, then bridge would have been built by now.

    8 August 2005
    Drivers Or Punch Bags?
    Almost every day brings further action that seems to be designed to hit drivers.
    Petrol prices are going up. Liverpool and Wirral are planning big increases in their parking charges.
    Liverpool's "Big Dig" continues. This is causing chaos now, but we fear that when the work is finished, drivers will discover that road space has been reduced:-  Daily Post 3rd August - "Big dig is business 'disaster'"
    And Arrowe Park hospital is planning to bring in a parking charge:-  Wirral Globe 3rd August - "VISITORS could soon have to pay 2 per trip to park their cars at Wirral's main hospital"

    6 August 2005
    More on Trams and Tunnels
    Larry Neild reports in this morning's Daily Post that "last night a new stumbling block faced the trams when Wirral's Labour council leader, Steve Foulkes, said he would fight any moves that would see Mersey tunnel tolls paying for massive loans to fund the tram network."
    We welcome the statement from Steve Foulkes but don't understand it. Though 4 out of the 5 Wirral Labour MPs opposed the Mersey Tunnels Bill, Councillor Foulkes and his fellow Labour and Lib Dem councillors supported Merseytravel. This support was reaffirmed as recently as the Wirral Council meeting on 25th April when Labour and Lib Dem councillors banded together to support toll increases and oppose MTUA proposals (see 26th April).

    "Stop the whinging" - "Sell the tunnels" 2
    On the 1st August we reported that an anonymous person had written to the Daily Post suggesting that the Tunnels be sold to finance the trams and "stop whinging" by Tunnels users. Yesterday the Daily Post kindly published a reply from our chairman, Dave Loudon. Here is a bit that got edited out:- "The Birkenhead tunnel cost 7 million to build and the Wallasey tunnel 37 million. The tolls collected since the Tunnels opened now amount to around 570 million. Tunnels users feel that they have already "bought" the tunnels, many times over.

    Wallasey Tunnel Traffic Chaos
    On the 28th July we reported on the traffic hold up in the Wallasey Tunnel. On the 1st August, the Daily Post published a letter from us asking why Merseytavel could not lift the tolls when it was this bad, so that traffic could clear.
    Yesterday the Daily Post published a long reply from the General Manager of the Tunnels. The reply details the accidents that occurred in the tunnels and praises the Tunnels Police. The letter ends "Most tunnels users appreciate these facts and are understanding and supportive when congestion is the consequence of accidents."
    The reply didn't seem to answer our question, so we have sent this letter to the Daily Post:- On occasions, delays will be caused or exacerbated by accidents. But delays are more often caused or exacerbated by closures of one of the Wallasey tubes and by the toll barriers.
    After the accident on the 28th had been completely cleared, lorries coming from Liverpool were queuing from the left hand manned toll barriers and into the tunnel tube. The other side of those toll barriers was clear. The traffic coming from Liverpool was backed up to the other side of the river. Lifting the tolls for a short period would have cleared that traffic quicker and been partial compensation to those drivers for the delay.
    Trips to the Moon
    At the end of July, Merseytravel opened their "Spaceport", which they say has cost ten million pounds. We don't know where this money came from, but we look forward to what must be a unique and pioneering method of travel for a Passenger Transport Authority.

    5 August 2005
    Trams and Runcorn Bridge
    The Daily Post this morning headlined their front page story from Andy Kelly - "Trams rescue looks doomed":-  "Trams and bridge hang in the balance"
    The trams have been in crisis for a long time, but we expect that they will win in the end. What concerns us is this obsession about trams, and the relative lack of concern about more delays for a new Mersey road crossing (see third page of the Daily Post report).
    The news on the Runcorn bridge is that the "Roads" Minister, Doctor Ladyman, has written to Halton Council further delaying any decision on the bridge.
    The likely real reason for the delay is revealed at the end of the Daily Post story:- "Any new bridge would almost certainly have to be tolled, leading to tolling on the current bridge."
    Tolling a free crossing would be a first in Britain, and perhaps the authorities believe that the people have not yet been softened up enough to accept this highway robbery.

    PS The Liverpool Echo are generally a supporter of Merseytravel, but tonight's editorial was headed "There's life after trams", and says "While it might be good to see trams on Merseyside .. it really is not essential." The editorial also says:-
    "If the project does fail, we must all ensure that the 170m of government funding which has been earmarked for this scheme is made available for other transport infrastructure improvements in our city... Some of this money has to be used to provide additional car parking spaces, together with improved links bewteen the motorway network and the city centre."
    Well said! But how about getting rid of the Tolls!

    3 August 2005
    Birkenhead Tunnel "Exits"
    On 17th July we reported on the letter in the Wirral News from a Bebington reader. The letter was about the safety "constructions" in the Birkenhead Tunnel and the lack of clear signs.
    On the 27th July, the News published an answer, headed 'Safety is our first concern', from the Mersey Tunnels General Manager:- "I read with interest your correspondent's letter headed 'Tunnel Danger' and the interest generated by your recent article and our communication leaflets.
    The new emergency exits are not yet ready for safe use and this is why they are boarded and barriered shut.
    Work continues, out of sight of the motorists, and the escapes will be signed and made available as each becomes completed.
    The Health & Safety Executive have been fully supportive in our efforts to make the tunnels even safer, should there be a fire or other emergency underground.
    Other tunnels have been closed for such improvements to be carried out but we have tried to minimise disruption to our users.
    At present, the original two escapes, one at each bank of the river, are still available so it is as safe now as it has been before the project was started.
    In any emergency there will be a degree of confusion but managing this is one of the roles of the Tunnel Police who will be on the scene to assist motorists.
    I thank you and the correspondent for the continued interest in the safety of the users of the Mersey Tunnels, which is our first concern."
    The point of the original letter was about the lack of clear signs, and in our opinion this not been dealt with.
    The response refers to the "new emergency exits". We have written to the Wirral News about this. In the interests of safety this must be clarified, as the new constructions in the Birkenhead Tunnel have elsewhere been described as "refuges" or "bunkers" and not as "exits".
    We are amazed that the response says that the tunnel could have been closed to carry out these works.

    The response mentions "communications leaflets" which we have not seen. There is a "leaflet" on the Merseytravel website Emergency Exits , but it deals with the present situation, i.e. without the new constructions.

    The Tunnels Manager says that in any emergency, the "Tunnel Police will be on the scene to assist motorists."
    We again remind Tunnels users of the AA Motoring Trust advice in the event of a fire in road tunnels:-
    "Not waiting to be told what to do if there is a fire ahead, and knowing that they should pull over to the left, switch off the engine, leave keys in the ignition and move swiftly away from the fire to the nearest emergency exit, or to the tunnel entrance."

    Tunnel Accident Inquest
    Last night's Liverpool Echo had a report on the Inquest following the unfortunate fatal accident on the 28th July near the entrance to the Birkenhead Tunnel. The Inquest was told that the man had realised that he was on the wrong bus as it approached the tunnel entrance. The bus driver apparently would not let the man off, and the man opened the door and got off while the bus was moving.

    1 August 2005
    "Stop the whinging" - "Sell the tunnels"
    An anonymous person has had this letter published in the Daily Post:- I read with interest the situation regarding the funding of Liverpool's tram system.
    I have a solution to the problem of where the remainder of the cash should come from.
    Merseytravel should sell the Mersey Tunnels to a private company to run and collect tolls from.
    Surely this would generate enough money to plug the gap and stop the whinging of people from Wirral that the tunnels are being used to fund schemes this side of the river."
    Merseytravel have tried this before. They were stopped by a coalition of MPs and unions.
    It is the users who have paid for the Tunnels through tolls. The tolls should be scrapped. That would stop our whinging.

    30 July 2005
    Tunnel Accident
    On the 28th, there was an unfortunate fatal accident near the entrance to the Birkenhead Tunnel. A passenger on a cross river bus apparently operated the emergency door control and left the bus while it was moving.

    29 July 2005
    Tolls to pay for Trams? - 2
    The Daily Post again ran the story about the trams, suggesting that they may be partly paid for by Tunnels tolls:-:-  "Tram funding back on track"
    The profit from the tolls already goes into Merseytravel's coffers, so they can spend that on what they like.

    28 July 2005
    Wallasey Tunnel Traffic Chaos
    The chaos in the Wallasey Tunnel was worse than usual today. As is often the case, Merseytravel had one of the two tubes closed, forcing traffic in to just one lane in each direction. This often leads to delays, but this morning there was also a collision involving three cars.
    The queue back from the Wallasey toll booths reached Liverpool, the other side of the toll booths was clear. Whatever the initial cause of the delay, as the jam going in the Wallasey direction was caused by vehicles queuing to pay the toll, could they not lift the tolls when it gets this bad? Or would this reduce the amount available to spend on trams etc?

    Tolls to pay for Trams?
    The saga of who will pay the hundreds of millions for the trams, rattles on. This morning various sources are suggested, including Tunnels tolls:-:-  Daily Post - "EU cash plea for Merseytram"
    The profit from the tolls already goes into Merseytravel's coffers, so they can spend that on what they like.

    26 July 2005
    Master Plan?
    Here is a bit of news from the 12th:-:-  Daily Post - "Anti-car attitude would be 'suicidal' for city centre"
    Having struggled to go down Edge Lane, where most of it is coned off, with no work being done yet, we agree. This is what we wrote to the Post:- "The vast bulk of travel in Britain is by road. Yet the authorities in Britain instead of increasing space for road travel and parking, seem to be reducing them. They are also increasing Tunnels tolls and parking charges, and threatening to bring in tolls on more roads.
    Perhaps the various authorities could reveal full details of the master plan that they are working to. At the rate they are going Merseyside may either be deserted or at a complete standstill by 2008."

    23 July 2005
    Tunnels motion
    We reported on 29th June that Stephen Hesford had put down a Commons (Early Day) motion on Trams and Tunnels. The motion was put down on the 27th:- "That this House notes with alarm the time and money wasted by Merseytravel in failing to secure Government backing for its Mersey tram project; calls for a full public inquiry into Merseytravel's handling of the project, not least the escalating costs; and further calls for Merseytravel to give an absolute assurance that any extra revenue raised under the Mersey Tunnel Act 2004 will be used to pay-off capital debt relating to the Mersey Tunnels with a view to securing toll-free use of the tunnels rather than being used for other transport schemes."
    The motion has been backed by one MP- Paul Flynn, from South Wales. He may have done this because he opposes the tolls on the Severn Bridges. But why have the other Wirral MPs not supported Stephen Hesford?

    22 July 2005
    No thank you
    A Widnes reader in tonight's Liverpool Echo, says that the need for a new bridge "pales into insignificance when compared with the serious social problems in each town". He suggests they don't spend "120m" on a new bridge, but instead spend it dealing with social problems through more policing and Social services.
    That is one point of view. But if a new bridge does go ahead, the chances are that the Government will not pay for it anyway.

    19 July 2005
    The Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake hosts the Open Golf championship next year (the first time since 1967). Some doubts have been expressed as to whether the roads can cope. Well don't worry! According to the reports in various of last week's papers all is fine:-

    The fabulous sum of 1,500,000 is to be spent on Market Street in Hoylake (from Kings Gap roundabout to Station Road and from Market Street to Cable Road). Work includes replacing pavements and planting trees. This may not ease traffic, but will certainly give drivers (both locals and visitors) something pleasant to look at as they sit in their stationary cars.
    Wirral council also point to the "new" Saughall Massie Road , which they say "will be a vital link road between west Wirral and the motorway". Leaving aside the question as to why this new road was built in the tradition of the rolling English drunkard, it is difficult to see how a road which ends in the middle of nowhere at Four Lane Ends is a "vital link". The road should have been continued in the direction of Kings Gap. This would have been of long term benefit as well as helping with Open traffic.
    Before the Open, there is also to be a road scheme to "improve the flow of traffic through Arrowe Park". We haven't seen details of this scheme, and we can only cross our fingers that it really will improve traffic flow through (or around) the park.

    It was also reported in the Daily Post that "Mersey Tunnels will send extra workers to clear their land of any illegally-dumped rubbish". This will no doubt impress visitors, who will also no doubt be eager to come back again to an area which has the advantage of being reached via one of Britain's most expensive toll roads.

    17 July 2005
    "Tunnel danger"
    This letter from a Bebington reader was in Wednesday's Wirral News:- "I read with interest your recent article praising Mersey Tunnels for investing "32m in upgrading the safety of the Birkenhead Tunnel.
    As a daily disgruntled user of the tunnel, I - and I'm sure the Health and Safety Executive - would like to know if the current constructions are presently functional?
    Firstly, if they are, then why are some of them bolted shut?
    And secondly, if they are not, why are there not clear signs saying so?
    I am sure that if there was an emergency in the tunnel then there would be a lot of confusion and potentially fatal situation.
    I look forward to hearing a response from the bosses of the tunnel - perhaps another toll rise to cover the cost of clear signage!"
    At some time we assume there will be a system for giving instructions to drivers when there is an emergency in the Tunnels. In the meantime we remind tunnels users of the general advice from AA Motoring Trust for road tunnels is:-
    "Not waiting to be told what to do if there is a fire ahead, and knowing that they should pull over to the left, switch off the engine, leave keys in the ignition and move swiftly away from the fire to the nearest emergency exit, or to the tunnel entrance."
    The "refuges" that have been built in the Birkenhead Tunnel are shelters, not exits.

    8 July 2005
    Wednesday Chaos
    At 5 PM on Wednesday , there was chaos in Liverpool city centre due to an overturned lorry near Wallasey tunnel entrance:-  Daily Post - "Tunnel traffic chaos as lorry overturns"
    These situations are bound to be difficult, but they have happened before and the authorities seem to be unable to stop the chaos. Today, Phil Miller from West Kirby had a letter in the Daily Post, his 25 minute journey had taken 2 hours 30 minutes. His letter ends "I know it was a tricky situation, but a few officers placed further up approach roads would have considerably reduced the queues and the delays to commuters heading out of Liverpool as well as those using the tunnels.
    As these events inevitably occur, perhaps a few road signs could be made and deployed at relevant points ... Give it a little thought, please."

    2 July 2005
    Liverpool Car parking
    Today's Daily Post reports that Liverpool City Council is aiming to considerably reduce car park spaces available for commuters. The Post editorial attacks this and related issues including the "outrageously high" Tunnels Tolls.

    29 June 2005
    Trams or Tunnels?
    Stephen Hesford MP has put down a Commons motion calling for an Inquiry into government support for trams. He has also called for Tunnels tolls to be only used to pay off Tunnels debt:-  Wirral News - "Pay tunnel debt order"   Wirral Globe - "Tunnel tolls attacked"
    We suspect that the trams will eventually get the 200 to 300 million of public money that they need to build Line One to Knowsley. But whether they do or not, we will not see an end to tolls, without more MPs and councillors supporting Stephen Hesford's opposition to the tolls.

    Trams or Bridge? - Whose decisions?
    On the 17th, Phil Redmond in his weekly column wondered if there was hundreds of millions to spend, then should it go on the trams or on roads such as "Southport link from Switch Island, Wallasey Tunnel approaches, M62/ M57 interchange, or Runcorn bridge". He suggested this decision should be left to locals. We sent the Daily Post this (unpublished) letter:- "If it was left to the locals, that means local politicians and there is no doubt which way that would go.
    The politicians who want 200 to 300 million to be spent on trams are, in many cases, the same ones who voted for the Mersey Tunnels Bill and for toll increases.
    The difference between roads taxes and roads spending is about 35 billion a year. Part of that 35 billion will go to public transport subsidies.
    When through taxes, tolls and road closures etc, the politicians force all vehicles off the roads, where will they get the money from?"
    Trams or Bridge 2
    On the 23rd, B Cunningham from Widnes had a letter in the Daily Post which said "The tram cancellation increases the chances of the new bridge being built, which is of more importance to the Merseyside economy.
    If Line One is not built, then the chances of Line Three to the airport and an extension on to Runcorn are negligible. Therefore a double-decker bridge would not be needed."

    Tunnel Bridge Rescue
    The Wirral Globe today reported that around midnight last Saturday, a man was threatening to jump off one of the bridges that cross the approaches to the Wallasey Tunnel. "Emergency workers" managed to grab the man.

    27 June 2005
    Runcorn Bridge Mystery
    We have just noticed a report from Cheshire Weekly News Group on 16th June. The Widnes firm that has produced models for the bridge has apparently produced one with just one traffic lane in each direction:-  Weekly News - "Firm has designs on bridge"
    It has already been revealed that the authorities are considering reducing the number of traffic lanes on the existing bridge from four lanes to two. Can it really be true that if and when the new bridge is built, there will be no more traffic lanes than now?

    There have been a lot of letters in the Liverpool Echo and the Daily Post about the trams scheme. On the 17th there was one in the Daily Post from Graham Skinner of Liverpool Vision. He complained that the people of Manchester had got the money they wanted for their tram scheme and "It also had a motorway built around the city at no cost to the people of Manchester, yet the people of Merseyside and the Wirral are tolled every time we use the tunnels. Where is the justice in that?"

    Road spending "Boost" really just a trickle
    The Wirral Globe have been running a campaign on Wirral's "Horror Highways":-  "Wirral's Top Ten Horror Highways"
    At the same time both the Wirral Globe and the Wirral News have reported "Wirral's Biggest ever roads programme:-  Wirral News - "Vital 500k roads boost"
    This is a letter that we sent in response:- "You reported that the Council was to spend "3.5 million over the next 12 months in one of the biggest maintenance programmes the borough has seen".
    The Wirral population is 312,000, so 3.5 million is just 11 per person.
    Motorists may suspect that they pay a little more than 11 in road taxes.
    Gordon Brown gets over 42 billion a year in taxes on roads use. That works out at 700 per person. Wirral's share of the 42billion would be over 200 million, A YEAR!
    All motorists are overtaxed, but on Wirral we have to bear the added burden and frustration of the Tunnels tolls.
    Now we have a threat that there will be more tolls on all roads, to "stop congestion".
    Congestion is caused by inadequate road spending and by forcing drivers into less road space with the ultimate aim of forcing drivers completely off the road. More tolls will mainly force the poorer drivers off the roads.
    We urge all readers to write to their MP urging that tolls should be scrapped and more of the roads taxes spent on improving roads."
    As the letter was not published. it would help if anyone reading this writes to their MP.

    Tunnels Safety
    The Liverpool Echo and Wirral News have reported on spending on Tunnels safety:-  Wirral News - "Tunnel safety improved"
    Safety is of course important, but that is not necessarily the same as spending "32 million" on capital schemes.
    Before all this safety work was done, we would be interested in knowing what risk evaluation was done; what risks were identified, their probability, their severity and possible measures to reduce them; what cost benefit analysis of this expenditure as against other expenditure or none was done; and how the increase in safety has been reflected in lower insurance premiums or any other measurable return.
    It has been reported that at some time there will be a system for giving instructions to drivers when there is an emergency in the Tunnel. In the meantime, the general advice from AA Motoring Trust for all road tunnels is:- "Not waiting to be told what to do if there is a fire ahead, and knowing that they should pull over to the left, switch off the engine, leave keys in the ignition and move swiftly away from the fire to the nearest emergency exit, or to the tunnel entrance."

    26 June 2005
    Ben Chapman MP, who led the opposition to the Mersey Tunnels Bill during it's long journey through the Commons, has attacked adverts on Motorways:-  Wirral Globe - "Danger of M-way adverts"
    Perhaps he could also take up the adverts along the Wallasey tunnels approaches. There seem to be more of these since the income has in effect been going to Merseytravel, rather than into paying off Tunnels debt.

    21 June 2005
    Lorries on Bidston Viaduct
    The Highways Agency are complaining that lorries are ignoring signs telling them to detour round the Bidston Moss viaduct. They are going to improve the warning signs:-  Highways Agency - "Heavy vehicle ban to be enforced on M53 viaduct during 4m strengthening work"
    We contacted the Highways Agency in January about inadequate signs. It is strange that it has taken 5 months to do anything apart from prosecutions by the Police.
    We are also concerned that there is the possibility of permanent lane restrictions which may affect all traffic using the viaduct.
    On the subject of the warning signs, does anyone know why the sign that you see after you exit the tunnel and are approaching the M53, is behind a massive wall?

    18 June 2005
    Congestion worse?
    Last night's Echo included a letter that we sent:- "A reader from Bebington wrote in about the Government's proposal for road tolls of up to 1.34 a mile. He said that this might be on top of existing Mersey Tunnels tolls.
    Another reader from Liverpool 26 wrote in about road space for cars being reduced and asked "do those responsible know what they're doing?".
    - The answer is that they are making the congestion worse, so that they can have an excuse for extorting more taxes and charges from roads users.
    The authorities spend on average only tuppence for every mile travelled on the roads. Instead of planning more tolls and trying to drive poorer drivers off the road, Gordon Brown should be told to spend some of his 35,000,000,000 a year roads profits on improving roads capacity."
    More on Trams
    The Echo and Daily Post have carried various reports and letters following the refusal of more Government money for the 300 million tram line from Knowsley to Liverpool City Centre.
    As you might expect the politicians who voted for the Mersey Tunnels Bill and Tunnel toll increases are all in favour of the trams.
    Though not everyone agrees. Friday night's Echo also had a letter from Mark Bill of Liverpool branch of UK Independence Party who said that:- "The 325m tram scheme would have been a waste of taxpayers' money and caused years of traffic disruption. Better public transport in Liverpool could be achieved at a fraction of this cost."
    We as Tunnels Users were originally concerned about the tram scheme, because Merseytravel gave the trams as an example of what they would spend the increased tolls on. But we are also concerned because the tram scheme may cause permanent problems in the area around the Liverpool entrance to the Birkenhead Tunnel. Though the City have already managed to cause chaos with roadworks and the closure of St John's Lane!

    13 June 2005
    Roads CHAOS
    As we predicted the closure of St John's Lane has caused in the words of the Echo "Mersey tunnel chaos":-  Liverpool Echo - "Roadworks blamed for city traffic delays"

    Trams Delay
    It looks as if the Government think that the Mersey Tram scheme will be too expensive:-  BBC - "Cash blow for Liverpool tram plan"
    If and when the tram scheme goes ahead it would have an adverse effect on the Birkenhead Tunnel. The scheme involves the demolition of one of the Tunnels flyovers, and the tramway is due to run close to the tunnel entrance.

    12 June 2005
    CHAOS from Monday 13th June
    Vehicles (except for emergency vehicles, buses, taxis and cyclists) will be banned from driving into St John's Lane, between St John's Gardens and the Marriott hotel, from Old Haymarket.
    Vehicles coming from the Birkenhead tunnel will be directed either down Whitechapel or around Byrom Street, Hunter Street, Norton Street, London Road and Lime Street.
    Much of the traffic going up St John's Lane is not coming from the Birkenhead Tunnel. The closure may cause chaos over a very wide area.

    Roads letters
    Saturday night's Liverpool Echo had two letters on roads:- Road charge lunacy Brian Stewart from Bebington
    "We recently had a major campaign against the decision to raise tunnel fees by 10p. Sadly the campaign was unsuccessful.
    ... the government are now suggesting that drivers will be charged for driving on all roads, ranging from 2p per mile ... to 1.34 ...
    ... it would seem likely that the top price would be charged in tunnels.
    The Birkenhead tunnel is approximately two miles long ... In addition to the toll there would be a road fee of 2.50. It would then cost about 3.80 to drive through the tunnel.
    Does anyone in the government think about what they're saying before they open their mouths?"

    What is happening to roads? A "confused tax payer" from Liverpool 26
    "Can anyone explain what is happening to our local roads?
    All around the city, junctions are being restricted, directions imposed and now in Hunts Cross a busy dual carriageway is reduced to one lane to allow for a cycle path! Yes we need cycle paths, I cycle myself, but here there is an alternative.
    Do those responsible know what they are doing?"

    PS. On 17th June the Echo published a reaction from us:-
    "A reader from Bebington wrote in about the Government's proposal for road tolls of up to 1.34 a mile. He said that this might be on top of existing Mersey Tunnels tolls.
    Another reader from Liverpool 26 wrote in about road space for cars being reduced and asked "do those responsible know what they're doing?".
    The answer is that they are making the congestion worse, so that they can have an excuse for extorting more taxes and charges from roads users.
    The authorities spend on average only tuppence for every mile travelled on the roads. Instead of planning more tolls and trying to drive poorer drivers off the road, Gordon Brown should be told to spend some of his 35,000,000,000 a year roads profits on improving roads capacity.

    11 June 2005
    More Tolls Misery
    You will have seen a lot in the last week about the Government's plans for more tolls. The Mersey Tunnels Users are absolutely opposed to these plans. The politicians love the idea of another tax and an excuse not to spend money on roads.
    You can see more about this scam at:-  National Alliance Against Tolls web site
    The Liverpool Echo backs Merseytravel and usually ignores Tunnels tolls, but last night they published a letter from George Anderson in Orrell Park:- "Had Alistair Darling given us wind of his proposal to charge the motorist by the mile before the General election, I've no doubt Labour would not have got in.
    What is the man thinking about? The air is as clean as it's ever been thanks to our stringent MOT tests and roadside checks. What he is saying he's trying to do is prevent gridlock. I say let the motorist decide on what areas to cycle or take public transport in.
    This stinks of Maggie Thatcher's downfall - the poll tax."

    9 June 2005
    Politicians Plan More Chaos
    From Monday 13th June, vehicles (except for emergency vehicles, buses, taxis and cyclists) will be banned from driving into St John's Lane, between St John's Gardens and the Marriott hotel, from Old Haymarket. Motorists leaving the Birkenhead tunnel to get to Lime Street will now have a long detour.
    General traffic will still be able to drive down St Johns Lane in the other direction. Cars will be able to exit the Queen Square car park into St John's Lane, but they will only be able to turn right:-   Liverpool Echo - "They drive us round the bend . . ."
    This may just be a taste of what will happen when the Merseytram scheme reaches the city centre.

    2 June 2005
    Tunnel Vision
    The Wirral News on the 18th May had a letter headed "Tunnel Vision". The writer appeared to partly agree with us, but ended that we were "clearly on the wrong road". Our response was printed on 1st June:- " ...The letter writer asked who will pay for the tunnel debt, it's upkeep, Tunnel Police and "a lot of administration".
    The cost of building the Tunnels was effectively recovered many years ago. The debt relates to old losses and we believe that this debt should be removed by the Government who currently only spend 20% of our roads taxes on roads. As far as we know the Tunnels is the only road in Britain, where the police has to be paid for through tolls. That would leave the upkeep of the tunnels and "a lot of administration", but we believe that these costs could be lower if the Tunnels were assimilated into the national roads network.
    At the moment the users of the Tunnels have to pay not only all these costs but nearly another 6 million towards Merseytravel's other services.
    We must admit that we are fighting against the odds, particularly as many of the Wirral councillors support toll increases. But if more Wirral people told the politicians what they thought, then we might not be on "the wrong road".

    1 June 2005
    Crosby bypass abandoned
    Sefton council is to abandon plans for "9m road between the Switch Island interchange and the A565 Southport Road" The road would have eased the severe traffic problems around Thornton and on Crosby Road North and South through Waterloo and Crosby:-   Daily Post - "Major bypass plan is doomed"
    Gordon Brown takes over 40 billion a year from roads users and spends little of it on the roads. The 9 million that can't be afforded takes about 1 hour 50 minutes to collect from motorists.
    Though as Sefton Council and it's MP have backed increases in Mersey Tunnels tolls, they must believe it's OK for the government to keep all this money, and Sefton will think about building a toll road?

    18 May 2005
    Tolls Baroness wins appeal against London Toll
    We reported on 14th April that a Baroness who helped to increase Mersey Tunnels Tolls had appealed against a London Toll fine. Well she won in the High Court:-   Telegraph - "Peer wins 240 congestion fine case"
    Will other people be treated the same?

    A41 millions
    The Wirral News reported today that 3.5 million pounds is to be spent on giving the A41 a "facelift". Here is the story as reported in the Daily Post:-  "Vital Wirral route wins 3m facelift"
    We hope that after this spending it will not be worse for drivers. But we suspect that the overall effect will be to slow traffic down on this "vital route" rather than speed it up.

    17 May 2005
    Tunnels safety
    Last month the Wallasey Tunnel was highly rated for it's safety:-   Liverpool Echo - "Safety win for tunnel"
    To put this in context, the Wallasey Tunnels has now been surveyed by the motoring organisations three times (2000, 2002, and 2005). Each time it has been rated as "Good". The rating of "Good" is higher than any other UK tunnel has ever achieved, but this rating has not changed despite the millions that have been spent:-   AA Motoring Trust - 2005 Report"
    One thing that we don't understand is why the Wallasey Tunnel, which was already rated as the safest, was the only UK tunnel that was surveyed in 2005. We also wonder why some UK road tunnels have never been included in the survey. And we wonder what would happen if rail tunnels were rated in the same way for safety.
    The emergency advice from Merseytravel   includes that if there is a fire "proceed to fire exits (nearest point of evacuation)". Many people will either not be aware of this advice or may not understand what it means. If they have the car radio on, then they should get a message over the radio.
    The general advice from AA Motoring Trust for all tunnels is:- "Not waiting to be told what to do if there is a fire ahead, and knowing that they should pull over to the left, switching off the engine, leave keys in the ignition and move swiftly away from the fire to the nearest emergency exit, or to the tunnel entrance."

    13 May 2005
    Halton MP backs Money for trams and trains
    On the 10th Derek Twigg, the MP for Halton, was appointed as a Transport Minister. Andy Kelly now reports that Derek is all in favour of lots of public money for trams and trains:-    Daily Post - "Twigg hopeful over rail cash"
    Train and tram users are of course massively subsidised. Roads users are massively taxed. We wonder how Derek will use his influence when it comes to tolling the new and existing bridges at Runcorn.

    6 May 2005
    More bridge hype
    Yet again the Daily Post reports more lobbying for a new bridge at Runcorn:-    Daily Post - "Support for new bridge"
    Yet again there is no mention of Tolls or the plan to reduce the existing bridge from four lanes to two.
    Yet again, the road users seem to be ignorant of the plans.

    2 May 2005
    How clean is my Tunnel?
    In tonight's Liverpool Echo someone from Moreton writes:- "I USE the Wallasey tunnel regularly and I have never seen it so dirty. I do not think it is a good advert for Merseyside and the Capital of Culture."

    1 May 2005
    Another Ambulance dispute
    We reported on the 12th Feb, a row over an ambulance taking patients from Liverpool to Clatterbridge. The driver had refused to pay the toll. Here is another ambulance story:- "A private ambulance boss has slammed transport chiefs after he was hit with a 17 bill for answering an emergency call.
    They received the bill last Friday after taking an NHS patient through the Mersey Tunnel.

    The driver was escorted by the Tunnel Police as he transferred a seriously-ill man to hospital in North Wales. The distinctive American-style ambulance was accompanied by a police car as it raced though the Wallasey tunnel and was allowed to bypass the toll booths.

    The private Ambulance Service from Simonswood, was shocked to receive the demand for payment. The bill was for a 1.30 tunnel toll, plus a 16 administration fee.
    A company spokesman said:- "We operate all over the country and we never have to pay the toll in an emergency.
    This patient was seriously ill and needed to receive emergency treatment as soon as possible.
    It could have seriously harmed them if our driver had been forced to pull over and pay the toll."
    Ambulances have to pay the Tunnels toll when answering non-emergency calls. Normally, however, they are exempt from the toll when the vehicles are attending a medical emergency and are accompanied by a police escort. It isn't clear why Merseytravel charged in this case.

    29 April 2005
    General Election - Candidates views
    The MTUA is NOT party political. But people may wish to be aware of where General Election candidates stand on what for many is an important issue.
    We have tried to contact the candidates for the main three parties, and asked these questions:- 1. In general do you oppose the principle of roads tolls?
    2. Do you oppose the recent increases in Mersey Tunnels tolls?
    3. Do you agree that tolls should NOT be used to finance public transport etc?
    4. Do you think that tolls should be removed and the Mersey Tunnels financed from roads taxes?
    5. Will you be fighting plans to put tolls on the proposed new Runcorn bridge?
    6. Will you be fighting plans to put tolls on the existing Runcorn bridge?
    Here is the result:-

    NONE of the Labour MPs nor their regional office have replied to us, but the following local Labour MPs actively opposed the Mersey Tunnels Bill:- Ben Chapman, Frank Field, Stephen Hesford, Andrew Miller and Bob Wareing. Three of these (Bob Wareing, Stephen Hesford and Frank Field) also supported our recent proposals for no toll increases, off peak reductions, free on Sundays, and no tolls for buses.
    All the other Labour candidates, with the exception of Jane Kennedy and Paul Brant supported the Mersey Tunnels Bill and can be assumed to be in favour of increases in tunnels tolls. (Jane Kennedy did not take part in any of the three votes on the Mersey Tunnels Bill. Paul Brant is not a sitting MP and we have no idea what his views are.)
    In our opinion, apart from the MPs who opposed the Mersey Tunnels Bill, the other Labour candidates will not oppose tolls on the existing and proposed Runcorn bridges.

    Their national office have told us that "We, as a party, oppose the principle of road tolls." and "As stated previously, we do not support road tolls."
    Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case with Mersey Tunnels tolls! Charles Kennedy and most of his MPs, voted for the Mersey Tunnels Bill (though in December he welcomed the abolition of tolls in his own constituency which includes the Skye bridge).
    The only local Lib Dem MP is John Pugh, and he was a strong supporter of the Mersey Tunnels Bill. The Bill would have been defeated in the House of Lords, if it were not for Lib Dem votes.
    Mike Storey, the Leader of Liverpool City Council both opposed the Mersey Tunnels Bill and supported our proposals, though this seems to have had no effect on Lib Dem councillors in Liverpool or the Wirral.
    Only two individual Lib Dem candidates have given us their views. One supports toll increases. The only Lib Dem candidate who opposes tolls and toll increases is Patrick Moloney.

    Those candidates for whom we received replies (from them or their agents)* were against Tunnels toll increase and said that they wanted the tolls abolished.
    Most of them would not oppose tolls on a new bridge at Runcorn, though they would oppose tolls on the existing bridge. The candidates for Halton (Colin Bloom) and Ellesmere Port (Myles Hogg) said that they would also oppose tolls on a new bridge at Runcorn.
    We received no reply from Howard Morton, but he has recently been campaigning against the tolls.
    * Wafik Moustafa, Amber Rudd, Gabrielle Howatson, Sharon Buckle, Jason Steen, Peter Garrett, Myles Hogg, Colin Bloom, Leah Fraser, Carl Cross, Esther McVey.

    Bootle: Wafik Moustafa
    Crosby: *
    Ellesmere Port & Neston: Andrew Miller, Myles Hogg
    Halton: Colin Bloom
    Knowsley North & Sefton East: *
    Knowsley South: *
    Liverpool Garston: Amber Rudd
    Liverpool Riverside: Gabrielle Howatson
    Liverpool Walton: Sharon Buckle
    Liverpool Wavertree: Jane Kennedy (she has not opposed tolls, but did not vote for Mersey Tunnels Bill), Jason Steen
    Liverpool West Derby: Bob Wareing, Patrick Moloney, Peter Garrett
    St Helens North: *
    St Helens South: *
    Southport: *
    Wallasey: Leah Fraser
    Wirral South: Ben Chapman, Carl Cross
    Wirral West: Stephen Hesford, Esther McVey
    * In those seats, where we have no name shown, the candidate who is LEAST likely to be on our side is the ex MP.

    28 April 2005
    Gordon Brown agrees Tolls are a tax - but he wants to keep them
    We have just heard that GB speaking at a Labour Party press conference on Thursday 21st, said: "Last week we showed how the Conservatives were making a series of promises that did not add up: their promises to - at one and the same time - increase spending immediately, reduce borrowing and cut taxes."
    GB gave a series of examples including:- " "Mr Howard Morton of Birkenhead will abolish road tolls and make "Birkenhead and Wallasey tunnels free to use...""
    At least this shows that Labour agree that Mersey Tunnels tolls are a tax.

    27 April 2005
    Drums Along the Mersey
    Last night's Liverpool Echo reports a briefing yesterday on the draft Local Transport Plan for the region. On the question of "congestion charges" the Echo reported Merseytravel saying:-
    "While congestion is growing in Merseyside it is not yet a problem. If you control congestion in a draconian way you run the risk of stifling economic growth. Our revival could be seen as brittle compared with other areas and no-one is prepared to risk that."
    Does this mean they are going to scrap Tunnels Tolls? - No. It just means that that the Wirral is treated as not part of Merseyside, but as a colonial outpost where the natives can be relied on not to make too much trouble.

    26 April 2005
    Wirral Council Motion
    Last night Wirral Council discussed a Tory motion on Tolls:-    Daily Post - "Tolls Battle"
    This is the motion as orginally moved by Councillor Jacquie McKelvie and then hijacked by Labour and the Lib Dems:-    Wirral Council Minutes
    In brief:- Labour and Lib Dems councillors are in favour of Tolls and allied to defeat the motion.

    We are intrigued that Merseytravel say that "scrapping the tolls would pose health and safety problems, and result in scores of redundancies". We wonder what the health and safety problems are? Congestion at toll booths may be a health and safety problem, but we know how to get rid of that!
    Scrapping tolls may result in redundancies amongst toll collectors etc, but we believe that the boost to the local economy would more than compensate for this.

    This is what we sent out to the councillors a few days after the meeting:-   Our response

    MTUA Chairman goes to Hollywood
    Our chairman, Dave Loudon, was interviewed for BBC tv, in an item on "local issues" in the General Election. Dave assures us that it was a 3 hour film, but unfortunately the interview was edited down to more like 3 seconds!

    Wallasey Tunnel closures etc
    Many members are complaining about the every day closures of one of the Wallasey tubes. This is the main cause of the congestion in the evening peak, as by the time Merseytravel reopen it, the Tunnel is already clogged. We wonder what the reason for these closures is. On the 25th March, there was a letter in the Liverpool Echo, asking "Will Merseytravel give a full answer to this question, or will we be left to guess what the reasons are?" It appears we have to guess, so please email us with your ideas .
    Some members are also reporting that there appears to be an increase in the number of HGVs using the tunnels since Merseytravel reduced their tolls. It may already be causing increased damage to the road surface.

    21 April 2005
    Forth Bridge Tolls - Increase confirmed
    Following leaks, the toll increase on Forth Bridge is now official:-    BBC - "Forth Bridge toll rise confirmed"
    The increase is 20 pence, but toll is only payable one way. After the increase the toll will be 1 for the round trip. All tolls are a pain, but this is a lot less than the 2.60 that Merseysiders have to pay.

    20 April 2005
    Wirral Tories Motion
    This motion has been proposed by Councillor Mrs McKelvie and seconded by Councillor Watt for the Wirral Council meeting at Wallasey Town Hall at Monday 25 April 2005, starting at 6.15 pm:- The Council notes that:
    (a) The Mersey Tunnels are vital to Wirral's economy in that they connect businesses and individuals from the peninsula to the rest of Merseyside and the wider road and motorway network.
    (b) The use of the tunnel tolls has the potential to disadvantage Wirral businesses and residents.

    The Council therefore:
    (1) Affirms its view that tolling for the tunnels should be removed and that they should be brought into the national road network with any outstanding debts together with future maintenance and operating costs being incorporated in the national road network debt.
    (2) Welcomes the efforts of the Mersey Tunnel Users Association who have suggested an overhaul of the present charging system, this being considered as the first step to the tunnels becoming completely free.
    (3) Condemns the comments attributed to Councillor Dennis Knowles who was reported to have stated 'that the MTUA talk a lot of rubbish', this, despite the MTUA having the support of a number of motoring and business groups.

    14 April 2005
    Baroness who voted for Tunnels tolls, appeals against London Toll
    The Press Association report a court appeal by a baroness against London Toll penalty. The Baroness misquoted her registration number when she paid the Toll. The Toll adjudicator dismissed her initial appeal as "liability was strict":-   The Scotsman - "Battling Peer Takes on Congestion Charge System"
    The Baroness comes from Liverpool and was one of those who (by one vote) on 9th Feb 2004 defeated Lord Hunt's motion on the Mersey Tunnels Bill, thus indirectly voting for Tunnels tolls and toll increases.

    13 April 2005
    Hong Kong Tolls
    It appears that we are not the only ones who suffer from Tunnels toll rises. Tolls on one Hong Kong tunnel are to rise from HK$15 to HK$25 (that's from about 1 to about 1.65). The rise is expected to increase congestion and cause a social crisis:-  The Standard - "Chaos seen when tunnel tolls rise"

    8 April 2005
    Tunnels delays
    Terence Duffy from Birkenhead had this letter in tonight's Liverpool Echo:-
    "ONE might reasonably have expected the Mersey tunnels management to have posted in advance, their own clearly visible notices on the tunnel approaches to warn motorists of the increased tolls.
    No such luck - consequently the incredible delays on the first days of the new toll charges when unprepared motorists arrived at the booths, inserted the 1.20 toll and sat there in ignorance of the increase.
    On Tuesday morning it took me over an hour to get through the tunnel to Liverpool.
    This is all part of the general management which seems to be run more for the benefit of the staff rather than for the paying public.
    A prime example is the electronic overhead signing on the flyover approach from Borough Road: This has been out of action for years.
    The only sign in Liverpool indicating closure of the Birkenhead tunnel is a crude mechanical sign. 21st century? You must be joking!

    "Motorists are getting a fair deal"
    Andy Kelly today looked at how the issue of Transport may affect the General Election:-  Daily Post - "Road and rail not a vote winner"
    He says "the two crucial transport issues on Merseyside - if you assume tolls in the Mersey tunnels aren't suddenly going to go away - are the funding for Merseytram and the go-ahead for a Second Mersey Crossing between Runcorn and Widnes....The second bridge campaigners were dealt a major blow when the government failed to make a major commitment to the scheme before the election was called. They remain hopeful and, with private sector finance and tolling a likely part of any new bridge, it is likely it could be just as acceptable to a Conservative as a Labour administration."
    Funny the way in which the Transport lobby don't want Tolls (on Tunnels or the Runcorn bridge) to be an issue. We will do our best to make sure that they are not forgotten.
    The report includes a quote from a spokesman for the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce:- "If you actually look at the cost of motoring in real terms, in total it has probably gone down. I think motorists are getting a very fair deal."
    We assume the Chamber of Commerce is either unaware of how motorists are ripped off or don't care.

    5 April 2005
    "New Bridge Decision Delayed Again" Again
    Go ahead, for the new crossing of the Mersey, has been postponed again. It was originally expected December 2003, then by December 2004, and then almost any day since!  BBC - "Mersey bridge decision postponed"
    Another road crossing of the Mersey is long overdue. It has already been leaked that both the new crossing and the existing Runcorn bridge will be tolled, and that they will reduce the existing bridge from four lanes down to two.
    We suspect that the Government have again put off an announcement, because they do not wish to admit to their tolling plans till after the General Election.

    Boycott Tolls - Swim!
    In tonight's Echo, Jame Fell from Wallasey, wrote "TUNNEL tolls up again, how unfair is that on the commuting motorist who has little other option if they want to get between Wirral and Liverpool to work? I think I might start practising my breaststroke and get some waterwings!"

    4 April 2005
    First week day of new tolls
    wallasey There were long queues at the Wallasey Tunnel during this morning's peak. The queuing was at the toll booths, both for traffic coming from Liverpool and traffic going to Liverpool. sign We had another go at our token protest. This time the Tunnel Police did not tell us to move off the public road. We don't know reason for this change of heart. wallasey

    3 April 2005
    Tunnels Police stop token protest
    Tunnel Users have been prevented by Mersey Tunnels Police from displaying a board protesting against the toll increase.
    Though we had abandoned earlier plans for a boycott and a "toot your horn" demo, at the last minute it was decided to display the board as a token protest.
    The board was in 2 pieces (4 foot by 4 foot) and one of our members was fitting the two pieces together when stopped by a Tunnels policeman. The board was to be put on the side of a van parked on Oakdale Road, which is the first bridge after the toll booths that crosses the Tunnels cutting in Wallasey.
    The member told the policeman that he was parked on a public road, but the policeman said that Tunnels Police authority extended to the bridges over the Tunnels.  Report in following day's Daily Post  and  Report in Wirral Globe

    1 April 2005
    Toll Increase - No Action
    Mersey Tunnels Users will not be actively marking the Tolls increase ** which comes into effect at the start (00.01) of Sunday 3rd April. We had considered a call for a Boycott on the Sunday, and a "Toot Your Horn" protest during the Monday morning peak. But these were abandoned for various reasons, including other news events.

    ** Charge for cars and small vans goes up from 1.20 to 1.30. With the tolls for lorries in "Class 3" going up from 3.60 to 3.90. The increases for Fast Tag users will be less. The tolls for most large vans and lorries will actually come down. Class 2 which paid 2.40 have effectively been merged into the class for cars and small vans. And the largest lorries, which paid 4.80, have been dropped into class 3.

    We issued a press release which included:- "It is ironic that the increase will kick in on a Sunday. We had proposed that there should be no tolls on Sundays. This would have encouraged more trips between the two parts of Merseyside, for visits to family and friends and for leisure.

    It is too late to stop this year's increase. But the politicians will be back for another increase next year. And they may soon be announcing approval for a new Runcorn bridge with probably tolls on that and the existing bridge.

    We urge all Tunnels Users to contact their local councillors and MPs to make their views known. There is no good reason why Merseyside should have suffered tolls for so long.

    26 March 2005
    Merseytravel Spring News
    The Spring issue (16) of Merseytravel News has a couple of Tunnels items.
    One mentions the Toll increases and says that they "are necessary to fund essential safety works in Queensway Tunnel." - Strange, we thought that they were necessary so that they could spend on non Tunnels schemes. But perhaps this means that they won't now be taking any of the tolls money after all!
    The other item is headed "Light at the End of the Tunnel". No, they are not getting rid of tolls. They are getting rid of the road users by closing the Birkenhead tunnel on Sunday 3 July for Liverpool to Chester Bike Ride. Anyone who thinks that they are practising for permanent closure, must surely be mistaken.

    25 March 2005

    Tolls Questions & Answers
    On the 12th March, the Daily Post published various questions that had been put by their readers to Merseytravel, together with Merseytravel's answers. Here they are! We have added the MTUA view to what was published:-   Q and A

    Wallasey Tunnel Mystery
    Last night's Liverpool Echo had this letter from a reader in Liverpool 14:-
    "CAN someone please explain to me why one of the Wallasey tunnels seems to be closed every day?
    The congestion this causes on the Wallasey side is ridiculous.
    If it is due to maintenance work or cleaning then why can't this be done at night when the traffic is lighter?
    With increased tunnel charges soon coming into effect, is it too unreasonable to expect a reliable free-moving passage through?"

    The MTUA are as puzzled as the Echo reader. The daytime closure of one of the Wallasey tubes seems to cause a gradual build up of traffic on both sides of the river. It is probably the main cause of the congestion in the evening peak period.
    This daytime closure does not seem to be a regular feature of other bridges and tunnels. Will Merseytravel give a full answer to this question, or will we be left to guess what the reasons are?

    24 March 2005
    "Bean" counted?
    Yesterday Merseytravel seem to have been counting the motorcycles using the Tunnels. It could just be for statistics but it is possible that they may want to reintroduce tolls for motorcycles (they have to pay on some other tolled roads). The profits on the Tunnels now go to Merseytravel, so they have more incentive to charge motorcycles. If they charged half the toll for cars it would give them about 300,000 a year. But it is VERY unlikely that they would do this, so bikers shouldn't worry about it ... yet!
    Coincidentally there is today a report that Transport for London is considering including motorbikes and scooters in the 5 daily "congestion" charge:-  Evening Standard - "Scooters face C-charge"

    Runcorn Bridge - Cheshire Cat out of the bag
    Further to the recent reports in the Daily Post, there is today a report in their sister Cheshire papers:-  Weekly News - "Bridge decision 'in two weeks'"
    The main difference between this and previous reports is that it says "would cost the Department for Transport 200m with tolling over a 30-year period" We don't know whether this is a mistake or someone has let the cat out of the bag.

    23 March 2005
    Complain, don't support this Unfair Tax
    The Wirral Globe last week had a letter on the Tolls. This week they published our reply:- I wonder where he got the idea that anyone had suggested subsidising the Tunnels with council tax? Every other Merseyside road is paid for by either council tax or national taxes, but in the short term all that we proposed was that Merseytravel should not take money from the tolls for spending elsewhere. If they had agreed this, then there would have been no need for a toll increase in April and there could have been off-peak reductions.

    The Mersey Tunnels users do believe that in the long run the Tunnels should be part of the 4,800 miles of roads which are directly paid for out of national taxes. As less than 1 out of every 5 collected in taxes from roads users is spent on the roads, most people would not regard any spending on the Tunnels or other roads as a "subsidy".

    The reader also says that the Tunnels have high costs for "police safety patrols" etc. As far as we know, the Tunnels are the only road (tolled or not) in Britain with a private police force. Policing should be integrated into Merseyside police. Other Tunnels costs will be higher than an average road. But there are lots of other roads with high costs that are paid for out of taxes. Bridges are not exactly cheap- the untolled Thelwall viaduct has just had 45 million spent on repairs. And there are at least 4 major tunnels which are free:- Conway , Clyde (Glasgow), and Blackwall and Rotherhithe (both London).

    The combination of the high rate of tolls (3rd highest river toll in Britain) and the time the tolls have been collected (more than 70 years) must make the Mersey Tunnels tolls the worst in Britain.

    Merseyside people, and especially those on Wirral, should be complaining to their councillors and MPs and not supporting this unfair tax.

    22 March 2005
    Tunnels Profits
    We have been contacted by people who have received their 2005/2006 Council Tax "Explained" booklets, and don't understand what it says about the Tunnels.

    The booklets say that for the year starting April 2005, the Tunnels will have expenditure of 32,670 thousand, income of 35,633 thousand and a net levy of (2,963) thousand. Booklet also mentions that 9.0 million of Merseytravel's "Capital Programme" will be financed from toll income.

    Simplest bit to explain is the 9.0 million. This is all in respect of Tunnels capital schemes. There is a list of over 50 of them, the biggest items in 2005/06 are "Emergency escapes" and "Traffic CCTV Autodetection". Many Tunnels users might wonder whether all of this spending is essential and value for money, but it is all to be spent on the Tunnels.

    The revenue bit is more difficult. If you still have the previous year's booklet, you will notice that the 2,963 thousand figure has not changed.
    For some years Merseytravel have been making a charge (which the Tunnels Users dispute) to the Tunnels for the losses incurred between 1988 and 1992 (losses before that were borrowed on the Tunnels account). In recent years the annual charge has been 3,663 thousand. Merseytravel credit 700 thousand of this to the Ferries, which leaves the 2,963 thousand.
    Other Tunnels expenditure and income is balanced by way of either charging capital expenditure to the tolls or transferring money to a reserve to finance future expenditure. In 2005/06, they are planning on financing 8,247 thousand from that year's tolls (the difference between that and the 9 million will come from the reserve).

    The Tunnels Budgeted expenditure for 2005/06 also includes 2,300 thousand for "Tunnels Act Transfer". This is a new item following the passing of the Mersey Tunnels Bill. (The Budget also shows that they anticipate a "Tunnels Act Transfer" of 2,800 thousand in 2004/05.) To balance the Merseytravel Budget, the Tunnels Act Transfer credit has been netted off the figure that is shown on the Council tax leaflet as "Funds Management".

    So answering the $64,000 question "How much are Merseytravel budgeting to take out of the Tunnels in 2005/06?" is a bit like asking how long is a piece of string. But if you start off with the surplus on the Council Tax leaflet of 2,963 thousand, add on the 700 thousand going to Ferries, and then the 2,300 thousand "Tunnels Act Transfer", you get a surplus of just under 6 million going to Merseytravel.

    Wirral by pass
    Daily Post reports that the road "between Wirral and North Wales is to be improved":-  Daily Post - "New 46.5m link road for congested route to Wales"
    The main road coming from North Wales in the direction of Wirral or Liverpool is the A550. But the road to be improved is the A5117 road to the M56.
    Improvements to the A5117 may indirectly help Wirral and Liverpool where there is the junction with the A550, but the improvements will mainly benefit traffic travelling in the direction of Manchester.
    Motorists will already be aware that Merseyside is a bit of a backwater as when travelling along the A55 or A494 the choices on traffic signs are Chester or Manchester. (Perhaps this is the Welsh getting their own back for Liverpool once claiming to be the capital of North Wales.)
    Wirral is in effect a backwater within a backwater. There are two European roads in the area.
    The E20 goes north of Wirral:- from Hull to Ennis in Ireland, via A1033, A63, M62, (Manchester), M62, A5080, A5047, (Liverpool), (FERRIES via Isle of Man), (Dublin), N7, M7, N7, M7, (Port Laoise), N7, (Limerick), N18.
    The E22 goes south of Wirral:- from Holyhead to Grimsby, via A5, A55, (Colwyn Bay), A55, A494, A550, A5117, (M6/M56 junction then follows E5/M6 and E20/M62 to M62 J35), M18, M180 and A180.

    21 March 2005
    Bridge campaign still flying, but the Tunnels have vanished
    The Daily Post again reports the hype campaign for a new bridge at Runcorn. This time they report that the bridge could receive outline approval within 2 weeks:-  Daily Post - "New Mersey crossing may be given go-ahead soon"
    The Daily Post editorial is headed "Mersey bridge go-ahead vital". It says that "At the moment, around 24 miles of the Mersey estuary are served by just the one crossing."
    24 miles is the distance from the mouth of the Mersey to the bridge at Warrington. It appears that the Daily Post is not including the Mersey Tunnels as a crossing. We are aware that the hype campaign ignore the Tunnels and have been referring to the proposed bridge as the "Second" Mersey Crossing. But surely they have not fooled the Daily Post that the Tunnels don't exist?

    17 March 2005
    Windfall for Merseytravel
    Yesterday's Budget from Gordon Brown included an announcement that pensioners would get free off peak "bus" travel from April 2006. This will apparently cost the national taxpayers 420 million a year.
    The effects of this on Merseytravel don't seem to have been mentioned. Their pensioners scheme in 2005/06 is budgeted to cost 41 million. They are unlikely to get all that back, but they might well get around 15 million a year.
    What will happen to this windfall?

    16 March 2005
    Bridge campaign offers free plane rides
    Both the Daily Post and the Liverpool Echo report the hype campaign for a new bridge at Runcorn. This time someone is offering free plane rides and a "champagne breakfast":-  Daily Post - "Bridge campaigners take to skies for bird's eye view"
    The bridge is needed, but there is little mention of tolls or the plan to reduce the existing bridge from four lanes to two.

    "Charge needed"
    In today's Daily Post someone living in central Liverpool who uses the Tunnels three times a week asks:- "Is it not possible to charge for the use of the parking facilities outside the tunnel entrance in Liverpool?"
    The letter has us intrigued. Do these free parking places exist and does anyone know who is using them?

    15 March 2005
    "Brick Up The Mersey Tunnels"
    In tonight's Liverpool Echo, local writer Nicholas Allt complains about officials appointing a London company to promote Liverpool's links with the Beatles. He also mentions that he hasn't been able to get a play that he coauthored considered by the Playhouse and Everyman theatres.
    The play is called "Brick Up The Mersey Tunnels". Is there something that they are not telling us?

    14 March 2005
    "Stop Moaning!"
    In today's Daily Post there is a letter headed "Stop moaning". The anonymous writer says that:-
    "I'M SICK and tired of the constant moaning from Mersey Tunnel campaigners about increases in tolls. People living in Wirral do very nicely out of Liverpool - just look at how many of them flood through the tunnels to jobs in the city every morning. If they don't like the system, I've got a simple solution - find a job in Cheshire instead. They are doing very well out of life on Merseyside, most people can only dream about owning a home in West Kirby or Heswall. So I think it is fair and just for them to make a contribution to the smooth running of public transport. What would they prefer Merseytravel to do? Scrap free travel for pensioners, maybe, for the sake of an extra 20p a day from their over-loaded pockets."

    We don't know where the writer lives, but he seems to think that it is a good idea for someone using the Tunnels to add to the subsidies that already go to public transport, while a millionaire travelling on any other Merseyside road would not. And not everyone on the Wirral is a millionaire! The English Indices of Deprivation 2004 published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister covers 6 measures for 354 authorities. The Wirral is in the worst 10 on 2 of the measures (local concentration of deprivation, and employment).

    11 March 2005
    Need for Toll increases
    The Daily Post has a feature by Andy Kelly on the tolls. It seems to be suggested that tolls are being put up by Merseytravel because they are legally obliged to do so:-  "One day it will cost 3.70 to use tunnels "  (3 pages)
    If Merseytravel are partly justifying a toll increase by saying that they are legally obliged to have one, it is strange that they went to so much trouble to get a law passed that forces them to do what they might not want to do!
    Tunnel tolls are linked to RPI which is currently increasing at about 3.5%, this would give tolls in 2048 of 5.80.
    Tunnel users do not want tolls at all, whatever the figure is. The Daily Post story may give the impression that Merseytravel don't want them either. It said there had been "six attempts with governments of different colours to get them to write-off the debt and make the tunnels part of the highway network". Merseytravel made a similar statement at the Lords committee. We asked when the last attempt had been made and the answer was 1992!

    9 March 2005
    Brick throwing
    A week ago the Wirral News reported that a brick had been thrown from a bridge and hit the roof of a car as it was leaving the Wallasey tunnel in Liverpool.
    This week the Wirral News reports two more recent incidents at the same place.
    One motorist who had a brick hit the front of the car said:- "If I had been a fraction quicker, I could have been dead or seriously injured. I drove over to the police box where there were two police men ... I told them what had happened and they just grunted at me, jumped into the vehicle and drove off. It was their complacency which miffed me .."
    Another driver who had a brick come through the sun roof went to the entrance of the Birkenhead Tunnel, he says "The police were very, very helpful in calming me down .. they also helped me clear out the car. They said it was happening regularly .."

    "Time has come to abolish the Tunnels tolls"
    In a letter in today's Wirral Globe, Howard Morton, a General Election candidate, argues that some of the taxes paid by road users should be used to make the tunnels free. He has challenged the chairman of Merseytravel to a public debate in Birkenhead.

    3 March 2005
    Edinburgh Toll
    Geoff Barnes reports on last week's vote in Edinburgh against tolls and what it means for Tunnels users on Merseyside:-  Wirral Globe - "Anti-toll protest takes heart from Scots vote"  
    As we told the Globe, the tolls that Edinburgh rejected would have seemed like a relative bargain compared with the Mersey Tunnels tolls regime. There would have been no tolls in the evenings or at weekends and you would have paid a maximum of 2-a-day.

    2 March 2005
    Undeserved Praise!
    At the end of February, both the Daily Post and the Liverpool Echo published letters congratulating the MTUA for encouraging people to use trains and ferries rather than the Tunnels. This was our response:- A letter writer applauds the Mersey Tunnels Users Association for asking people to cross the river by trains or ferries rather than the Tunnels.
    It was someone else that reportedly suggested this, so the MTUA does not deserve his applause.
    Merseytravel has a monopoly of all the river crossings, so there would be little point in encouraging such action. Though as the Tunnels have been subsidising the ferries for most of the last 70 years, perhaps Tunnels users should get a ferry discount!
    The letter writer appears to favour public transport, so I assume that he was disappointed that Merseytravel rejected our proposal that buses should be toll free.

    22 February 2005
    Edinburgh Toll Vote - No 133,678 to Yes 45,965!
    Result of the Edinburgh Toll Poll was announced this morning. Turnout was 61.8%, with 74.4% saying NO!. You can see more at:- no tolls web site

    We issued this press release:-

    The people of Edinburgh have said a decisive "No" to Tolls.
    Over the last two weeks Edinburgh voters have been taking part in a postal referendum on whether to introduce a toll to enter either the city or the city centre.
    There had been a year long bitter fight between the Labour run Edinburgh Council who wanted the tolls and those who opposed them:- the Lib Dems, Scottish Nationalists, Scottish Socialists and the Tories. Apart from the politicians, those opposing the tolls included Edinburgh community groups, shops and the National Alliance Against Tolls.
    The Yes campaign was backed by green and public transport groups, and the Governments on both sides of the border. They wanted to eventually see Tolls on all roads. This defeat will have delivered a fatal blow to Government hopes.

    Things certainly seem to be different north of the "border". At Christmas, the 9 year old tolls on the Skye bridge were removed. But on Merseyside the councillors who run Merseytravel recently rejected proposals from the tunnel users for reduced off peak tolls, no tolls on Sundays and no tolls for buses, and are instead increasing tolls from April.

    The Tolls that Edinburgh rejected may have seemed like a relative bargain to Tunnel users. There was to be no toll in evenings or at weekends, and you would have paid a maximum of 2 a day. Tunnels users from April will pay 2.60 for every round trip, no matter which day and what hour and even if they have already paid that day.

    Dave Loudon for the Mersey Tunnels Users who are part of the National Alliance Against Tolls said:-
    "It is rare that the people have a chance to have a decisive say."
    "We are pleased that the majority of the people of Edinburgh have rejected tolls despite the spin and vast resources that went into persuading them to say yes."
    "Tolls are unfair and indiscriminate in their application, and a great deal of money is wasted in their collection."
    "Unfortunately on Merseyside we don't have a direct vote, and tunnels users have had to suffer this burden for 70 years."
    Liverpool - Car Friendly?
    While Edinburgh was rejecting Tolls, the Merseyside campaign against Tunnels users continues. The Daily Post today has a feature on whether Liverpool should be more car friendly but does not mention Tunnels Tolls:-  "Should Liverpool be more car-friendly?"  (3 pages)

    "Smoke" alert
    Tonight's Liverpool Echo reports that "Birkenhead tunnel was closed for 30 minutes at midnight after smoke was spotted coming from the pump room. Firefighters were called but found it was dust from an extractor."

    21 February 2005
    Boycott but it wasn't us
    There was a boycott today of the Mersey Tunnels. The boycott was not organised by us. According to a report from Liam Murphy it was not a great success:-  "First tunnels boycott fails to make a big impression "
    It is very difficult to boycott the Mersey Tunnels as Merseytravel have a monopoly on Mersey Crossings, unless you want to swim!
    There is also a difficulty in getting everyone to know about the boycott before they read about its "failure".
    The reported lack of success of today's boycott will partly be because a lot of schools were reopening after the half term break.
    We have not ruled out having a "boycott" at some stage but we are considering what sort of other effective action we can take to show how Tunnels Users feel between now and the threatened toll increase in April.

    19 February 2005
    "Liverpool city centre cars to be cut by 40%"
    This is the big story in today's Daily Post (though it is not on their website).
    The story says that Liverpool city councillors "met in private yesterday to hear details of the pollution crisis. They approved .. plan aimed at tackling the problem."
    From the plan details, it is not evident how they would reduce traffic by 40%.
    Nor is it clear what the pollution figures are that have led to this crisis. No doubt there are some problem areas, but the only city centre area that they mention (Commutation Row, Lime Street) is remarkable for the fact that this major thoroughfare is often almost empty of traffic.
    The pollution figures are not on Liverpool's website but according to the official government figures (which are based on a monitoring station at Speke) the pollution levels in Liverpool are low:-:-  Air quality (scroll down to Liverpool)

    "Brown faces "fiddle" claim after U-turn on the roads"
    This is the story in some of today's papers.
    The Office for National Statistics is going to reclassify the "2.7 billion spent on road maintenance and repairs" as "investment". This will make it easier for Gordon Brown to keep within his "golden rule" which says that over an economic cycle, government borrowing should only be for capital investment.
    What concerns us, is not whether Gordon Brown is fiddling, it is that he gets over 40 billion a year in taxes on roads use, yet so little is spent on roads. Some of this vast profit should be used to help remove Tolls from the Tunnels.

    18 February 2005
    Merseytravel and Daily Post
    Merseytravel have posted on their website a "media release" dated 15th Feb. It is an open letter dated 28th January to the Daily Post. The letter concludes "You are the "disgrace" in failing to make these points clear for the benefit of your readers and we sincerely hope that we can look forward to a higher standard of reporting and commentary from the Post in future."  "Mersey Tunnels Tolls"
    Many papers try and avoid controversy; we hope that tunnel users will support the Daily Post and that it will not be inhibited whenever it reports on the unfairness of Tolls and their adverse effects.

    17 February 2005
    Bidston Viaduct Threat
    We have mentioned before the closure to lorries of the Bidston Moss Viaduct (by B&Q on the M53) for repair work. ( Highways Agency Press Release 22 Dec 2004 ).
    Well you may have noticed that lorries are being diverted but that there is not much work going on.
    It seems from a report this week in the Wirral News and a similar report a week ago by Liam Murphy that they are considering demolishing it!  Daily Post - "M53 bridge faces axe"
    What will concern Tunnels users is both the massive disruption and the huge bills that may fall on Tolls - because unlike say the Thelwall viaduct which is paid for out of taxes,a large part of the cost of building and maintaining this bridge bizarrely falls on Tunnels users.
    You may also have noticed that Merseytravel are actually reducing Tolls for the heaviest vehicles!

    14 February 2005
    Road leading to Runcorn Bridge the 7th most dangerous in Britain
    Part of the ring road around Runcorn - A533 Runcorn - A56 (3.5km) , a route to the existing and proposed Runcorn bridges - is the 7th most dangerous road in Britain. This is according to the European Road Assessment Programme which has graded more than 800 major UK roads.
    We wonder what this means for the location of the planned new bridge at Runcorn.

    12 February 2005
    "Ambulance patients kept waiting in Tunnel toll row"
    The Daily Post reports that an ambulance taking Liverpool patients to Clatterbridge was kept waiting for 20 minutes while the driver and Merseytravel staff disputed payment of the toll. The driver did not have with him the tag that would have automatically charged the toll to the Ambulance Services account. Eventually the driver paid the toll with their own money. A spokesman for Merseytravel said "We would never charge an ambulance to go through the tunnels if it was responding to an emergency".
    Last December, Eric Munn at the Wirral Globe calculated that the cost of tolls for patients going from Liverpool to Clatterbridge was 125,000 a year:-    'Tunnels should be free for patients'

    10 February 2005
    Merseytravel Confirm Toll proposal


    Despite the publicity before the lobby, the turnout was disappointing. We know that most of the people of Liverpool and Wirral oppose Tolls, but unfortunately many think that the people will never win against the political establishment. The lobby was joined by Leah Fraser, Conservative candidate for Wallasey, and  Pete Price, who is a regular Tunnels user. It's a while since we have had any pics, so here are two


    Here is the report in the next day's Daily Post:-   Daily Post - "Campaigners fail to halt rise in tolls"    and following week's Wirral News:- "Green light for toll rise"    and following week's Wirral Globe (dated 2nd but actually 16th):- "Fury of campaigners at Mersey tunnels toll rise"

    9 February 2005
    The Merseytravel meeting to confirm the toll increase is in Hatton Garden, tomorrow, Thursday. Their meeting starts at 2.30, but we will be there from around noon. We realise that it will be difficult for many people to come, but please try to come some time between 12 and 2.30, even if you can only stay for a few minutes.

    75,000 Tolls Bill
    With the threat that toll increases will be a regular event, we have worked out what someone would pay over a working life.
    The Tolls use the RPI which is currently increasing at just under 3.5% a year. We have assumed that someone goes through the Tunnel about 6 times a week, or 280 times a year.
    That would currently cost about 670 a year, or with the increase of "only 10 pence" 730 from April. But in 44 years time it would be 11.60 for one round trip or over 3,200 a year. Over a 44 year working life that is over 75,000.
    That is 75,000 that someone who doesn't use the Tunnels would not have to pay. You can see the story from Sam Lister:-   Daily Post - "75,000 bill to use tunnel during your working life"  and Geoff Barnes:-  Wirral Globe - "Staggering cost of being a tunnel commuter"  and Wirral News:-  Wirral Globe - "75,000 to use tunnels all your life"

    Thank You Pete
    We would like to say "Thank You Very Much" to Pete Price for letting users air their views on his City (Sunday night) and Magic (Monday to Thursday) phone ins.

    "Edinburgh's loss is our gain over congestion charge"
    This is the headline in tonight's evening paper in Glasgow.
    Edinburgh are voting this week and next on whether to have tolls. People on Merseyside might consider it a bargain, as it won't apply in evenings or at weekends, and if you do have to pay (2), it is only once a day.
    Early indications are that Edinburgh people will give Tolls the thumbs down. But if they don't Glasgow reckons that it will be miles better for them:-   Glasgow Evening Times - "Edinburgh's loss is our gain over congestion charge"
    We wonder if they will give us a vote on Tolls? Maybe not......

    8 February 2005
    Debate POLL
    Daily Post Poll closed last night. Unfortunately it didn't start till late on Friday.
    The final result was 92% against Toll increase and 8% for, according to today's Daily Post.
    We don't understand who these 8% are, presumably they are either philanthropists or never use the Tunnels.
    Thank you to the 92% and to all those who wrote in. Very few comments were published. Here they are:-

    5 February 2005
    Lobby of Merseytravel - (Please pass this message on)
    Merseytravel are due to have their Budget meeting at 2.30pm next Thursday at their offices in Hatton Garden, Liverpool. The toll increase is expected to be confirmed at this meeting.
    We are planning to lobby outside the meeting, and will post further details on this page. If you are able to come along, then please email us:-  Lobby
    We will probably be there from some time in the morning, so even if you can't be there at 2.30, you can perhaps join us briefly earlier in the day.
    So far we are not planning any other action.

    POLL on the Tunnels Toll increase has just opened on the Daily Post / Liverpool Echo website, on this web link:-   POLL - Should we have to pay more for the tunnels?    Please vote, and ask others to do so.

    This last week there was a letter in the Liverpool Echo from the Greens which appeared to be supporting Toll increases for cars and said that "high particulate pollution" was a contributory cause of asthma and cancer in Liverpool city centre.
    Health issues are a concern to everyone, but it is strange that traffic travelling from say Sefton to Liverpool city centre is apparently not a problem for the Greens.

    Pollution has been falling in Urban areas and is now lower than Rural areas according to the Government's "Air Quality Headline Indicator"  DEFRA Press Release 13 Jan 2005   The indicator measures air quality for 5 key "pollutants" against standards and converts this into an overall figure. The main problem is Ozone.

    Most pollution does not come from cars. The letter specifically mentions "particulate pollution".
    An assessment that DEFRA did in 2002 estimated that Fine Particles (pm10) were down to 65% of 1990 levels (60 to 39) and that road transport in the UK was the cause of only 26% (39 out of 161):-   Fine Particles (pm10)
    And only a small part of that 26% comes from cars, as it mainly comes from diesel engines):-   Particles 1993

    4 February 2005
    Association Of British Drivers "Manifesto"
    The ABD have today issued their wish list of what they think the political parties should include in their manifesto. They already had, as part of a previous wish list, at number eight "All current schemes and proposals for future tolling and charging should be scrapped. The road system should be funded from the billions of pounds paid in motoring taxes each year."
    Their latest list has scrapping tolls and "congestion" charges at number two! (Number one is "Reinstate road building and improvement schemes".

    2 February 2005
    Tolls and Parking
    Eric Munn reports on the double whammy of toll increases and parking charges:-   Wirral Globe - "War declared on Wirral drivers"

    1 February 2005
    DEBATE - "Should We Pay More For The Tunnels?"
    Today's Daily Post poses the question. Hopefully we all know the answer. You can see the debate at:-   Should we have to pay more for the tunnels?
    Please tell them what you think by:-

    Writing to "Feedback, Liverpool Daily Post, PO Box 48, Old Hall Street, Liverpool L69 3EB
    Or emailing :- Daily Post
    Or by calling 0151 472 2492.
    The person saying Yes, we should pay more, is the local chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, who at one time appeared to oppose Toll increases.
    He says that it is estimated that local tax bills would go up by 20% - 40%. We would be very interested in seeing how this was calculated. Our proposals which were rejected by Merseytravel were based on tolls money only being spent on the Tunnels, and the only subsidy we suggested was 300,000 a year so that buses would be free of tolls.
    He suggests that if one day the Tunnels were to be made toll free there would be "total gridlock"
    In our view if the tolls were removed, then traffic would flow more freely. We are also aware that the existing Runcorn bridge with 4 lanes appears to carry as much traffic as the 8 lanes of the Tunnels.
    If another crossing of the Mersey is needed, then perhaps the Government could spend a bit more of the 40 billion that they take from road users on the roads.
    After all, if the authorities did succeed in forcing everyone off the roads, where would all that tax come from?

    A Different Business View
    Though the Federation of Small Businesses appears to favour Toll increases, this is not the view of all business people. This is what the Forum of Private Business said in a press release on the 28th:-   "FPB fury at Mersey tunnel toll hike"

    28 January 2005
    Tunnel Tolls Increase!
    The Tunnels Board apparently met on Wednesday (26th) to discuss our proposals. We don't know what was said, as they meet with press and public excluded.
    But there was an open committee meeting yesterday, tolls were not on the agenda, but they have apparently rejected our proposals "A New Way Forward For Tunnels" and decided to have a toll increase of 10p for cars and light vans from April.
    (We were expecting an even bigger increase, but we think that the inflation since November 1999 was not quite big enough. At present rates they will be able to have another 10p increase from April next year.)
    They apparently also decided that the tolls for most Heavy Goods Vehicles will come down by up to 45%, as they are going to merge the existing 4 classes of toll into 2.
    The decision still has to go to the full Merseytravel board on Thursday 10th February. So we ask EVERYBODY to make your views known NOW!
    Whether you are an MTUA member or not, please write to papers etc and contact your councillors:-
    Liverpool councillors :-   Wirral councillors
    This is the story as it was reported by Sam Lister:-   Daily Post - "Tunnel tolls set to rise by 10p"
    This is the story as reported by Eric Munn, before the meeting that decided on the increase:-   Wirral Globe - "Tunnels toll outrage"

    24 January 2005
    Support from Bob Wareing
    Last week we issued a press release about the support that we had had from Bob Wareing:-

    Tunnel users object to the tolls being turned into a "tax" and a raft of proposals from the MTUA, including a toll freeze, have already won widespread support, including the backing of Birkenhead MP Frank Field and Stephen Hesford, MP for Wirral West.
    They have also been welcomed by Mike Storey the Leader of Liverpool City Council, the AA Motoring Trust, the Forum of Private Business, the RAC Foundation and the Road Haulage Association.

    Now West Derby MP Robert Wareing is also backing the proposals, he said:-.

    "The proposals from the MTUA seem to be eminently sensible.

    I have always believed that the Tunnels should be toll-free as they are part of the National Road Network and essential for the Merseyside economy.

    These proposals from the MTUA have my full support and I am happy to be associated with them."

    15 January 2005
    Contact Councillors
    Merseytravel will soon decide on our proposals and whether there will be a Toll increase in April. We have asked members to contact councillors to let them know their views. Even if you are not a member you can still contact councillors at:-   Liverpool councillors :-   Wirral councillors

    13 January 2005
    Forum of Private Business
    We reported on 23rd October that the Forum of Private Business had backed our proposals:- (a) No Toll Increases, (b) Off peak half price tolls, (c) Sundays free, and (d) No tolls for Buses.
    The Forum is based in Knutsford and represents around 25,000 businesses, employing a total of over 600,000 people. We are very pleased to see that they realise that tolls do not make economic sense. Since their statement in October they have released 2 more relating to local tolls:-
    FPB rejects Merseytravel tunnel claim:-   FPB rejects fixed toll on Runcorn-Widnes Bridges

    Tolls in Manchester?
    Manchester's equivalent of Merseytravel are the "Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority". They want to introduce road tolls, and as a first step are having an opinion survey. On Tuesday, the Leader of Manchester City Council said he would oppose tolls as it could be "extremely damaging" to the local economy:- - "Brakes put on road toll plan"

    12 January 2005
    RAC view
    Today a committee of MPs was due to look at the idea of tolling all roads. Edmund King, the head of the RAC Foundation was interviewed on BBC radio. He said that he agreed with tolls if they applied to everyone and there was a guarantee of no overall increase in taxes. BUT he gave 2 examples of existing tolls that he didn't agree with, one was the Severn Bridges, the other was the Mersey Tunnels.
    Just as well he said that! As the RAC and AA, both supported the battle against the Tunnels Bill, and also back our proposals.

    11 January 2005
    Bidston Moss Viaduct
    We reported Daily Post story on 21st December that there may be yet more work on the Viaduct (end of the M53 by B&Q). This was confirmed by Highways Agency on 22nd December:-    "Temporary restrictions for heavy good vehicles using M53 Bidston Moss Viaduct"
    It was in the news again today and seems to be imminent. There will be chaos for lorries having to divert, and for all those on the diversion routes.

    Mersey Barrage
    Someone from Walton had a letter in last night's Liverpool Echo. He suggests that instead of building a new bridge the far side of Runcorn, they should build a barrage with a road on closer to Liverpool. He reckons that it could generate electricity, and that would pay for it. Certainly sounds better than tolls!
    But whatever they build, there should be no need for tolls anyway:-    Daily Post letter - "Mersey barrage "

    1 January 2005
    "Skye's The Limit"
    Thanks to the Wirral Globe for their coverage last year and in particular for their 29 December edition.
    The last edition of the old year included this message from Andy Anderson who led the successful campaign against the tolls on the Skye bridge:-
    "We have been fighting hard for nine years and several of our members have gone to gaol for protesting. There were times when we faced bitter disappointment along the way but we dug in our heels and fought back. If people in Wirral want to get rid of the Mersey Tunnel tolls they should build strong community support and not give up."
    MTUA secretary, John McGoldrick said:-
    "The reasons why they have got rid of the Skye tolls are very similar to the reasons that we should get rid of the tolls here ... it will boost tourism and the economy ..."
    "The bridge has been there for nine years and they've dropped the tolls but we've had them in Merseyside for 70 years..."
    "We are not expecting the tolls to go tomorrow but we are hoping Merseytravel gives serious consideration to our proposals that include: no increase in tolls, half price off peak journeys and no tolls for buses."
    "I went to Skye earlier this year, it is 400 miles from Birkenhead to the island and there were only two tolls on the journey, one was the Mersey tunnel and the next was the Skye bridge, 400 miles later. Now there is only one toll on the journey - and it's here."

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