(this page produced 17 April 2008, revised 22 April)
A/cs from 1934
2008 toll increase
We are having another public meeting and have invited some of the local politicians so that they can answer questions on what they are doing about the tolls. The meeting is at the GROSVENOR ASSEMBLY ROOMS (“GROSVENOR BALLROOM”), off Manor Road, Liscard, Wallasey. The meeting is on Friday 25th April from 7 PM. Please join us if you can (even if you can't be there for the start).
This page mainly covers the period up to early April when the tolls increased. For later news dealing with our proposals for discounts etc, see - 2008 Toll proposals page.
STORIES IN LOCAL PAPERS LETTERS
PICTURES of protest on Sunday 6th April 2008 on the Oakdale Road bridge near the tunnel entrance in Wallasey (separate page)
At the beginning of February we heard via the press that Merseytravel planned to have a toll increase. The news was most unexpected as though the last increase was in 2005, we believed that the Tunnels were making a profit and there were no earlier hints that they planned a increase. Merseytravel have a special board to discuss Tunnels matters. We asked Merseytravel when this board had last met - at first we got no answer, but then we were told that the board had not met since tne 9th October last year - and knew nothing about the toll increase. We were also surprised as we believe that tolls damage businesses and tourism on Merseyside and yet they were going to increase them in European Capital of Culture year.
The proposed increases ranged from 10 pence to £1.50. With the biggest incraeses being applied to buses and to vehicles with trailers. Details-
Class 1 (cars without trailer, goods vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes gross weight without trailer, Buses with less than 9 seats, motor bikes with side cars, 3 wheelers) - toll goes from £1.30 to £1.40.
Class 2 ( cars and goods vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight with trailer, goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes gross weight but with only 2 axles, buses with 9 or more seats and 2 axles) - toll goes from £1.30 to £2.80.
Class 3 ( goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes gross weight and with 3 axles, buses with 9 or more seats and 3 axles) - toll goes from £3.90 to £4.20.
Class 4 ( goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes gross weight and with more than 3 axles) - toll goes from £5.20 to £5.60.
One of the categories that would be hardest hit was buses, where tolls more than doubled. In Saturday 2nd February's Echo a member of the Tunnels board was even quoted as saying that "the largest increase targetted small buses". This treatment compares with the proposals that we made in 2005 and 2006, (and Merseytravel rejected), that there should be no tolls on buses. (We have also suggested reduced off peak tolls, no tolls on Sundays and public holidays, and one way only tolls.)
The Merseytravel board met on Monday 4th Feb to discuss the proposed toll increase. The four Wirral councillors - Ron Abbey (Labour), Chris Blakeley (Tory), Denis Knowles (Labour) and Dave Mitchell (Lib Dem) - spoke against the increase. Two of the Liverpool Labour councillors spoke in favour of toll increases. Councillor Blakeley moved an amendment which would have had the effect of stopping the increase but the amendment was defeated. The toll increase proposal was then put with six councillors voting for it, four voting against and eight abstaining.
The six voting for a toll increase were - two Labour councillors from Liverpool, two Labour councillors from Knowsley, one Labour councillor from Sefton and the Tory councillor from Sefton. The four voting against were the four councillors from Wirral. Those abstaining were all Lib Dems - the Leader of the Lib Dems on Merseyside was reported as saying that they decided to do this as they did not want to go against the one Lib Dem from Wirral and because the toll increase would go through even without their vote!. Did they know that they could rely on the Tory from Sefton?
After the meeting we tried to contact the Wirral councillors as to what their party position was. Labour did not reply. We got a reply from the Lib Dems which in effect refused to say what their position was. The Tories said their position was "that the Tunnels should be part of the national road network and be toll free", though it was not then clear what they would do to try and make that a policy of the whole Council. (The last time that the Tories tried was in 2005, Labour and the Lib Dems voted against it.)
Merseytravel made their usual claims about the increases being spent on the Tunnels and about debts carrying on till 2048. The only things that Merseytravel seem to be good at are spin and raking money in from tunnel users. It had been reported several weeks earlier that Merseytravel had spent £70 million on the tram scheme that was stopped - Daily Post - "£70m bill for failed Merseytram project". They could have put up the Tunnel tolls anyway, but it seemed that they had a hole to fill. Or at least it did till it seemed that they were spending money like there was no tomorrow - they bought the Beatles Museum, started cutting up their U-boat with a "diamond drill" and scores of plant holders appeared at the Tunnels entrances.
While Merseytravel were putting up Tunnels tolls, in Scotland from the 11th of February there were not only no toll increases - there were NO tolls.
Saturday 2nd February's Post said that a Merseytravel spokesman told them that the toll increase was to pay for new offices for Tunnels staff. This was not mentioned in the Merseytavel board report on the toll increase, but in any case, how many Tunnels users want to see £3.6 million of their cash spent on new offices - and what do all these staff do?
Saturday 2nd February's Post also quoted Angela Eagle, the Wallasey MP, as saying "I'm not happy" about the toll increase. But she was one of the Merseytravel Tunnels bill's main supporters. The local MPs who fought for users of the Tunnels were Ben Chapman, Stephen Hesford, Frank Field, Bob Wareing and Andrew Miller. Then when the bill had been forced through the Commons we were reliant on Lord Hunt who was backed by Lords Harrison, Chan and Alton. The Lords came close to defeating the Bill (10 votes) but unfortunately for Tunnel users amd Merseyside, the bill was passed.
On Tuesday 5th February, Merseytravel were on the Roger Philips show on Radio Merseyside. We later raised with the BBC why they gave most of the time to Merseytravel and no time to those campaigning against the tolls. The answer from the BBC was that "It is our policy to give the correct facts". We will be looking at how correct are these "facts".
It is very difficult to tell from the Mersey Tunnels budget what the profits on the Tunnels are. In fact if you look at the budget you will get the impression that though the tolls income is £38 million they only manage to break even. This impression is reinforced by the leaflets that everyone receives with their Council Tacx bill which show that the Tunnels only just break even. But we reckon that the impression which is given is incorrect and that in the year to the end of March they will have made £10.7 million on the Tunnels, and in the year starting in April it will be just over £7 million. The amount seems to have gone down because they have in the budget a new item - £3.6 million for "Provision for Restructuring, Harmonisation, Relocation and Other Contingencies" - we don't know what this is, but assume that it is not all for flower boxes!
One good thing that has come out of the this latest toll increase is that it has focussed attention on the unfairness of the tolls. We will be doing what we can to make sure that the issue is not a five minute wonder. We have had a public meeting and a protest, and more are planned. If you are reading this and you are not a member of the MTUA then please join us and help with the campaign - join page
STORIES about the toll increases
Liverpool Echo Thursday 17th April - "Toll hike adds insult to injury"
Liverpool Echo Wednesday 16th April - "£30,000 a year to stay at home"
Wirral News Wednesday 9th April - "Campaigners in toll rise protest"
Wirral Globe Wednesday 9th April - "Campaigners in toll rise protest"
Liverpool Echo Monday 7th April - "Toll rise will damage city"
Daily Post Monday 7th April - "Tunnel protesters make their point"
BBC Sunday 6th April- "Protest over tunnel charge rise"
Daily Post Saturday 5th April - "Scot who led toll free revolution says same can happen to Mersey Tunnels"
Daily Post Saturday 5th April - "Revealed: How tunnel tolls rise will subsidise public transport"
Wirral Globe Wednesday 2nd April - "Tunnel tolls protest"
Wirral News Wednesday 2nd April - "Wirral tunnel users protest over tolls increase"
Wirral News Wednesday 19th March - "Protest over Wirral tunnel tolls"
Liverpool Echo Tuesday 18th March - "Toll protestors plan to hold tunnel demo"
Daily Post Tuesday 18th March - "Tunnel protest planned over tolls rise"
Liverpool Echo Friday 8th February - "Tunnel tolls for service"
Liverpool Echo Friday 7th February - "Trams cash could have paid for tunnel tolls ..."
Wirral Globe Wednesday 6th February - "Rise 'catastrophic' for business"
Wirral News Wednesday 6th February - "Wirral anger at tunnel tolls increase"
Liverpool Echo Tuesday 5th February - "Six out of 18 say yes... so Mersey tunnel tolls go up"
Liverpool Echo Tuesday 5th February - "Fury over split on Mersey Tunnels vote"
Daily Post Tuesday 5th February - "Comment: No way to treat commuters"
Daily Post Tuesday 5th February - "The Debate: Is a 10p rise in tunnel charges justified?"
Daily Post Tuesday 5th February - "Taking their toll: Fury as just six men vote through Mersey Tunnel toll rise"
BBC Monday 4th February - "Increase in tunnel toll approved"
BBC Monday 4th February - "Increase in tunnel toll discussed"
Daily Post Monday 4th February - "Mersey tunnel tolls to rise from April"
Daily Post Monday 4th February - "Business on the attack over Mersey Tunnel price rise plan"
Liverpool Echo Saturday 2nd February - "Talks demand on 10p tunnels hike"
Daily Post Saturday 2nd February - "Mersey Tunnel toll rise to pay for new Merseytravel office"
Wirral Globe Friday 1st February - "Tunnel tolls rising again"
Liverpool Echo Friday 1st February - "Taking its toll on city"
Liverpool Echo Friday 1st February - "Tunnel toll set to hit £1.40".
Wirral News / Daily Post Friday 1st February - "Should we have to pay more for the tunnels?"
Daily Post Friday 1st February - "Mersey Tunnels tolls to rise"
Some published letters
Wirral News 16 April - "I cannot believe the tunnels have gone up again. I had a friend visiting me from London last week and she was shocked that we had to pay to enter Wirral from Liverpool at all. Then we were stuck in loads of traffic because people hadn’t realised the tolls had gone up – they were putting the wrong money in and getting stuck. When are the authorities going to stop stealing from us?"
Liverpool Echo 13 March - "WHY is it that the Scottish government can write off the debt on Scottish tunnels when the people of Merseyside have been asking the British government for years to do this but have constantly been ignored? As a member of the English Democratic Party I feel that this is a decision made by a Scottish-controlled British government."
Wirral Globe Wednesday 26th February - "Take tunnels away from Merseytravel".
Daily Post 18 February - "I think it is absurd that people cannot accept that the cost of travelling via the Mersey tunnels must naturally see an increase over the years. How do they suppose the tunnels are being kept in good condition? Do they think the money comes from the transport fairies? People keep on harking back to the days when the tunnels were first built and saying that the tolls should have paid for themselves by now, but that was then and this is now and we live in the real world where inflationary rises are an everyday occurrence. That may not be a good thing, but it’s the truth, and unless you want to swim across the Mersey or travel via the Runcorn Bridge there’s no way around it."
Liverpool Echo 15 February - "IN the voting for the increase in tunnel tolls there was 8 abstentions, all Liberal Democrats. What a lily-livered lot they are. Why did they bother to attend the meeting?"
Daily Post 12 February - first 4 letters.
Liverpool Echo 11 February - "WHERE is the money from the tunnel tolls going? One day last week we were backed up to the New Brighton turn off (a few thousand cars, lorries etc., so loads of money there). Why is it up to councillors from Sefton, Knowsley etc., to vote about the tunnel? How many times do they use it? Why should the money I pay to use the tunnel be frittered away on other Mersey travel services which I do not use? It’s about time that the public started fighting back. Tunnels should be free. Scotland can do it, so why can’t we?"
Liverpool Echo 8 February - "SOME time ago Merseytravel was allowed to increase tunnel tolls. This was, they said, to pay for future transport services, ie the trams. Yet now they want to increase the tolls again, although the trams have been scrapped. How does the tunnel user know this is not to pay the massive debts that Merseytravel have incurred?"
A/cs from 1934