Later News 2015 News
A/cs from 1934
"Follow Mersey Tunnel Users on Twitter
December 30 - CROSS RIVER ARMAGEDDON
Stagecoach Bus Strike Off -
Liverpool Echo 29 December "Wirral bus drivers strike called off".
Government advice -
Highways England 29 December "Driver advice for Wirral railway line closures".
December 30 - FAT CATS
BBC 28 Dec "Bosses 'do not deserve bumper pay packets', study finds".
Fat cats get fat because they control big organisations and the people who nominally control them such as councillors and shareholders in practice can't stop these modern day pirates who 'earn' their bloated salaries by making everyone else worse off.
December 30 - NIGHT BUS TO STAY
Liverpool Echo 26 Dec "Cross river night bus between Liverpool and Wirral made permanent".
December 24 - PROPORTION OF TAG JOURNEYS GOING UP
We recently asked Merseytravel for some information about Class 1 (car and van) journeys over the last 36 months. What they gave us has been summarised by us and we have shown percentages - Number of Class 1 journeys over last 36 months (pdf).
The trend is away from cash to tag, for the 12 months as a whole to November 45% of journeys were by tag, and for November alone it was nearly 50%. These are of course journeys, the vast majority of drivers will still be paying cash but each of them will not be making as many journeys as those who have a tag.
December 24 - STAGECOACH BUS STRIKE MAY ADD TO CROSS RIVER ARMAGEDDON
Liverpool Echo 23 December "Outrage over Stagecoach strike which spells double trouble for cross-river commuters".
December 22 - ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
BBC 22 December "Broadband boost for remotest parts of UK".
People who live away from the cities get their public services subsidised by the rest of us by the Governmnt either subsidising uneconomic services or requiring suppliers to provide services at an uneconomic price that is subsidised by other users of the service (such as mail, phones, electricity). There is a similar situation where those who live in areas where there is a flood risk get free protection from taxes and lower insuarnce rates at the expense of everyone else.
But when it comes to river crssings there is no help from the Government and no cross subdisation. Instead those who use certain cross river roads are treated as sheep to be fleeced.
December 21 - EXPENSIVE HOT AIR
BBC 21 December "RHI scandal: Renewable Heating Incentive 'could close'".
The Northern Ireland First Minister was criticised a week ago because of her involvement in the 'heat an empty shed' scam, where people are paid large subsidies for using certain energy sources. You could even claim for heating an empty shed providing you did it by burning something other than coal, gas or oil.
One odd thing was that the First Minister was accused of wasting 'only' £400 million though in Northen Ireland alone over one billion pounds has been wasted. But she lost only £400 million for NI because the UK taxpayer bears most of the bill as they bear all of the bill for the many billions (the UK Government do not publish the figures) for these scams in England, Scotland and Wales. So not a penny for the Tunnels while we all pay for UK politicians generating a lot of expensive 'green' hot air.
December 21 - MORE ON CROSS RIVER ARMAGEDDON
Liverpool Echo 19 December "Campaigners pressure Merseytravel over tunnel tolls during rail replacement works".
December 21 - ANOTHER MOTORWAY CLOSURE
A similar incident to one in October - Liverpool Echo 18 December "Man detained after M53 is closed in both directions because of concerns for safety".
December 17 - Hush....STATION
Liverpool Echo 17 December "Revealed: Merseyside's quietest - and busiest - train stations".
With only 87 passengers a day, perhaps we can look forward to how Merseytravel plan to spend a few million in Tunnels tolls to make life more comfortable for the passengers at Upton station. Free ice creams? Dancing elephants? Electrification?
December 17 - Hush...Hush TRAINS MYSTERY
Merseytravel are to splash £469 million on new trains - Liverpool Echo 16 December "Merseytravel reveals new £460m train fleet plans - with no train guards" Wirral Globe 16 December "Go ahead given to £460m scheme for driver-only trains to replace Merseyrail's ageing fleet" Merseytravel 16 December "New Merseyrail trains by 2020 after City Region leaders give green ligh".
This is a bit of a mystery. The report that went to the Council Leaders was kept secret and the press and public were excluded while this item was discussed. The press relaese, which could have been written before the meetingf, includes the chair of Merseytravel saying "These new trains will be fit-for-the-future, safer and faster and at no additional cost to passengers or council tax payers." He does not say who the fairy godmother is.
The Globe repeats what the press release said, but the Echo also has "the £460m scheme will be funded from reserves of cash and from loan funding at “favourable interest rates”. Talks are under way with the European Investment Bank."
We wonder where the Echo got this information from? And we wonder where these "reserves of cash" came from?
According to the bank's website "The EIB is the European Union's bank. We are the only bank owned by and representing the interests of the European Union Member States. We work closely with other EU institutions to implement EU policy." So we also wonder why the Europeans would be lending Merseytravel money after the Brexit vote? Are Merseytravel going to declare themselves independent of the UK?
December 17 - ROADWORKS
This was in the Echo a few weeks ago, but may be more handy to know now - Liverpool Echo 19 November "Merseyside roadworks guide: What's happening in the run up to Christmas".
December 16 - MPs LOOKING AT CONGESTION
The Transport Committee at the House of Commons is looking at congestion on the roads. They seem to think that one way of dealing with it is to have more road tolls. The NAAT of which the MTUA is part have made this submsiion to the MPs.
December 16 - ANOTHER SUGGESTION TO REDUCE CROSS RIVER ARMAGEDDON
One of our members has sent this idea to us - "The typical instinct here is to help others in difficulty. In the Winter of 1962 during the long bus strike, motorists would stop and offer lifts. Perhaps in the coming weeks, motorists might consider organising “car pooling” arrangements – or even better, make arrangements to help a neighbour who needs to cross the river to get to work?
I’m convinced this would work here, even if it would NOT work anywhere else!"
December 16 - BOOM IN SPIN
Liverpool Echo 3 December "Merseyside economy is fastest growing in UK".
This story says that Merseyside beats all other British cities for economic growth. It would be more accurate to say that Merseyside is Britain's capital for spin doctors selling nonsense.
The ONS report that was published yesterday (a pdf) only mentions 'Merseyside' in the list of areas receiving EU 'transition funding' becaue it is so poor. It does mention 'Liverpool' in its table of UK cities but shows Liverpool as 10th in "Growth in Gross Value Added" and also 10th in "Growth in Gross Value Added Per Head".
'Gross Value Added' will depend on the number of jobs and how productive they are.
Yesterday the ONS also published the data detail (a spreadsheet).
Table 4 is the basis of the spin. The table shows 'Growth in Gross Value Added', Merseyside for 2015 had 3.6% growth, this is better than for most of the country though it is the average figure for the North West.
Table 5 is also 'Growth in Gross Value Added' but this time 'per head of population. Merseyside is 3.1% against 3.0% for the whole North West and 2.1% for England.
But the most significant figures are in Table 3 which shows the indices of Gross Value added per head, i.e. not just one year's growth but the cumulative position. The UK average is 100, London is 172.1, Greater Manchester is 85.3 (Manchester alone is 126.7), Merseyside is 76.2 (Liverpool is 89.9, Knowsley / St Helens is 86.0, Sefton is 58.3 and Wirral is 57.3). Total GVA in £ millions is 378,424 for London, 59,606 for Greater Manchester, and 29,452 for Merseyside. We are still the poor relations.
The reality is that Merseyside is one of the least productive areas in Britain, that we are one of the few mainly urban areas to have got billions of EU funding - which we got because we are so poor, and that Wirral economically is the worst part of Merseyside.
December 15 - CROSS RIVER ARMAGEDDON
There is likely to be chaos for six weeks from 3 January to 12 February due to closure of the railway line between Liverpool and Wirral. On the 13th we asked the Leaders of the Merseyside councils to tell Merseytravel to suspend the tolls. You can see what we asked in the stories below. The Leaders have not replied but you can see Merseytravel's answer in the stories. This is what we then said to the Council leaders today (15th)-
"Whether the tolls are suspended or not there will be more Tunnels traffic because of the railway line closure. We do not believe that a significant number of people will abandon buses to go by car if tolls are suspended. This excuse that no tolls means more traffic and more congestion was one that was used in Scotland before the Scottish Government removed the last tolls in 2008. There was indeed more congestion for a brief period when the tolls were first removed - but that was only because the local authorities timed major lane closures and restrictions to coincide with the removal of tolls. The experience of drivers in Scotland since things were back to normal is that the removal of tolls reduced congestion and there is almost no one there who wants them back.
It is claimed by Merseytravel that if the congestion were not at the toll barriers then it would be in the Tunnels themselves.
For traffic going from Wirral to Liverpool there are more exit lanes than there are under-river traffic lanes, so traffic spreads out.
For traffic going from Liverpool to the Wirral though there is some provision outside the Tunnels for vehicles to queue to pay the tolls, the queuing is often so bad that the queue extends into the Tunnel and can go all the way back to Liverpool. In the worst case this can cause gridlock in Liverpool. The MTUA have at various times since 2005 proposed that there is one way tolling with the tolls doubled going from Wirral to the Liverpool and the tolls removed going from Liverpool to Wirral. Our proposal if accepted would have had as one effect that drivers going from Liverpool to the Wirral would no longer be queuing in the Tunnels in order to pay tolls. Merseytravel have always rejected our suggestion. It seems odd that they now make the ludicrous claim that one reason the toll barriers are there is because queuing in the Tunnels is "something we try to avoid wherever possible".
The MTUA repeat the request that the tolls be lifted for these six weeks. Or failing that then we suggest that the tolls be lifted for three of the six weeks so that it can be seen who is correct about the effect of the tolls on congestion at the Tunnels."
Click Liverpool 15 December "Mersey tunnel users demand tolls scrapped" Wirral Globe 15 December "Mersey Tunnel users call for tolls to be scrapped while loop line trains are on six-week shutdown" inc some comments Liverpool Echo 15 December "Tunnel users say tolls must be AXED while Wirral rail lines closed" This story has a lot of comments including from the usual anti Wirral, anti car, anti MTUA brigade.
Wirral Globe 13 December "Mersey Tunnel users warned to expect disruption during loop-line track renewal work" Liverpool Echo 12 December "Mersey Tunnels gridlock warning over loop-line renewal work" Merseytravel 12 December "Mersey Tunnels gridlock warning over loop-line renewal work".
December 13 - NO RPI INCREASE THIS TIME ROUND BUT TOLLS CAN STILL GO UP
Today the official figures for inflation were published. The news media concentrate on "CPI", but Tunnel users are affected by the "RPI" as the figure for that as at November each year (published in December) sets the maximum amount that the car toll can be raised to from April.
A year ago based on the formula the maximum toll for cars was £1.870 rounded to nearest 10 pence, i.e. £1.90. This year the formula gives the maximum amount for the car toll as £1.911 which still rounds to £1.90.
The actual cash car toll is of course £1.70 so they could still raise the toll in April.
December 10 - GREEN STORIES FOR KIDS
Liverpool Echo 9 December "Could Liverpool get its old green buses back?".
This is a good example of feeding trivia to people while the real issues are forgotten. When Merseytravel controlled the buses before deregulation at the end of 1986, there were no bus services going through the Tunnels. Since deregulation the buses probably carry about one third of the people going through the Tunnels. How could anyone think that Merseytravel who did not allow buses before deregulation are the best organisation to decide what bus services are needed?
December 10 - ANOTHER 'CHARITY' CLOSURE
Liverpool Echo 9 December "Nightrider is Liverpool's Hottest Ticket To Ride".
Though some of these closures might generate significant sums for charities about the only things that usually seems to be guaranteed are the fee that goes to the organiser (who in this case is based in London) and the disruption to drivers while a tunnel is handed over to the cyclists.
December 10 - CRASH
An accident at Wallasey Tunnel exit. As usual we will never hear whether the maneuvering as vehicles approach the toll booths had anything to do with this - Liverpool Echo 3 December "Tunnel crash leads to delays for drivers heading into Liverpool".
December 10 - CHIEF OF THE ROBBER BARONS COMES TO LIVERPOOL
Liverpool Echo 5 December "Bank of England Governor gives key Liverpool speech".
He says that he supports Everton. As he has Canadian and Irish nationality but not British, which bit of him is a Toffee?
There is another report of this on Zero Hedge, a site that tells what is really going on behind the lies of governments, banks and makers of war - ZH 5 December "Mark Carney Defends The Bank of England: "We Are Not Robbing The Poor To Pay The Rich"".
December 1 - GOVERNMENT CROW ABOUT SPENDING CHICKENFEED ON THE ROADS
BBC 18 November "Autumn Statement: £1.3bn to target congestion roads".
This sum is about the same as the Government take away from drivers EVERY week. And as usual the news media are helping the Government to lie. They do not tell you that this paltry sum is spread over four years and is not even all to be spent on roads as part of it is going to 'local transport'. There will not be a single extra penny going to roads in this financial year, and next year there will only be an extra £365 million for "Roads AND Local transport".
December 1 - MORE JOBLESS BUT MORE MONEY FOR PALACES
Wirral Globe 16 November "Wirral unemployment figure rises".
BBC 18 November "Buckingham Palace to get £369m refurbishment".
December 1 - XMAS TO COME TO TUNNELS FOR FIRST TIME EVER - BUT ONLY FOR ONE DAY
No Tunnels tolls from 10 PM on Xmas Eve to 6 AM on Boxing Day - Liverpool Echo 13 November "Christmas bus, rail and ferry timetables revealed".
December 1 - TRAINS AND TRAINS AND TRAINS
The Merseyside establishment nad a lot of bloggers seeem to be obsessed that the HS2 line must come all the way to Liverpool, even though converting the line from Crewe will make little difference to journey times and even if we have to pay for it as the Government will not waste even more money on this line.
Now the local political lords seem to have moved their plans to speeding up the line from Liverpool to Manchester. That might be better, but will it not just mean that more people from here go to work or shop in Manchester? Liverpool Echo 15 November "High speed rail backers say Liverpool scheme still on track".
December 1 - GIVE'M THE MONEY
Liverpool Echo 17 November "Is today the day the Liverpool city region takes back control?" Liverpool Echo 15 November "Almost £200,000 cost for two new city region bosses - for just seven months".
(The City Region now control the Tunnels and devolution seems to be the plan where the Government gives the local toll barons more power over the loot from the Tunnels.)
November 14 - ANOTHER DELAY
Wirral Globe 14 November "Birkenhead Tunnel reopens after car breaks down".
November 14 - DRAINS CAUSE DELAYS
Liverpool Echo 13 November "Second day of delays for Wirral motorists after closure of Birkenhead tunnel". There are a few comments including "Yesterday was a complete farce. The Birkenhead Tunnel was closed without any discernible warning. Just to keep us on our toes, the City Council started to dig up the road that leads from Byrom St. to Islington. A masterpiece of traffic management... I wonder who the Mersey Tunnels are accountable to? Perhaps they should take more of an interest in the day to day running of the tunnels"
Liverpool Echo 12 November "Traffic chaos for Wirral motorists after closure of Birkenhead tunnel" Liverpool Echo 11 November "Birkenhead Tunnel to close all weekend from tonight" Wirral Globe 11 November "Weekend closure of Birkenhead tunnel for replacement work".
November 14 - A BRIDGE NOT FAR ENOUGH
Scheme for a new bridge over the Mersey, though this being Merseyside this fantasy is of course not meant for road vehicles (though perhaps they will have a whip round so that Tunnels users can pay for the cost of it?)- Liverpool Echo 10 November "images of how Liverpool could look in the future" What Next Liverpool 15 October "Liverpool Bridge".
October 31 - MORE ON ANGELA'S AMNESIA
Wirral Globe 26 October "Little action on tunnel toll cuts" letter from MTUA.
October 26 - EARLY WARNING
Wirral Globe 26 October "Weekend closure of Birkenhead tunnel for essential maintenance works" Liverpool Echo 25 October "Total closure of Birkenhead tunnel for "essential maintenance works"".
October 19 - ANGELA SUFFERS AMNESIA AND BLAMES TORIES
Wirral Globe 19 October "George Osborne's Mersey Tunnel toll cut promise branded 'cynical stunt'" Liverpool Echo 18 October "Angela Eagle: Tory promises on cutting tunnel tolls was 'cynical stunt'".
We are staggereed by these claims. It is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. The Tories certainly seem to have gone back on their promises - though that is possibly because Esther McVey lost her seat and her position in the Cabinet where she could have nagged George to do something before he was sacked by Theresa May.
But it is hypocrisy for a Labour MP to talk about the Tories and ignore the promises that Labour made before the election. They were supposed to be cutting the tolls by stopping the profit taking. In practice Labour has done very little and only the minority of drivers who have a Tag have seen a reduction in tolls. Merseytravel and the City Region are still due to make £13 milion profit this year from users of the Tunnels.
Angela Eagle told both the Echo and the Globe that the Tories should now honour their promises "and provide the necessary funds to the Combined Authority so the tunnel tolls can be cut ” Angela should know that there is little chance that the Government will give any financial help while the authorities are still making profits from drivers.
What Parliament could do is to pass a new Act which stops the profit taking and thus reduces the tolls. Unfortunately the Tory Government seems to have no intention of trying to change the law and instead seems to have a very cosy relationship with the Labour run authority where they both forget what was said before the election.
There would be no profits and tolls would be at a far lower level if it was not for the Tunnels Act 2004. The Act makes it a lot easier to put up tolls and allows the authority to use the toll profits on non Tunnels schemes. The MTUA tried to get the Act stopped in Parliament and all but one of the Wirral MPs opposed the Act. The one exception was Angela Eagle. As a result of the 2004 Act that she supported users of the Tunnels have so far paid nearly an extra £150 million in tolls.
These are the (written) questions that Angela Eagle recently asked in Parliament and the answers that she got:
Q46998 on 7 October "To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to comments made by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer at a meeting in Birkenhead on 4 May 2015 and pursuant to the Answer of 14 September 2016 to Question 45786, whether he plans to directly intervene in the review of the Mersey tunnel tolls to reduce the cost of those tolls."
Answer on 12 October: "Under the Mersey Tunnels Act 2004, the power to set tolls for the Mersey Tunnels is vested in the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, who own and operate the Tunnels. The Combined Authority has already reduced the cost of tolls to fast tag users and will consider its strategic approach further, to inform the forthcoming report on its Review of tolls. This Review will inform the decision on future toll levels, which will be taken locally by the Combined Authority, as required by the Mersey Tunnels Act."
Q45786 on 9 September "To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what progress has been made on the review of the Mersey tunnel tolls."
Answer on 14 September: "The Review of the Mersey Tunnel Tolls is being undertaken by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. I welcome the decision taken at its February meeting to reduce the cost of tolls to Fast Tag users. This was implemented from the 1st April this year, bringing significant benefits to local people. The Combined Authority is continuing its Review of tolls, to ensure that a sustainable long term position can be reached. I understand that an update report is due to be presented to the Authority this Autumn."
October 11 - MORE ON PLAN FOR SIX MONTHS OF CROSS RIVER DELAYS
Liverpool Echo 10 October "Revealed: All you need to know about the Wirral line closures" Wirral Globe 10 October "Alternative travel advice for Wirral commuters ahead of major Liverpool 'loop' upgrade" Liverpool Echo 5 October "Wirral line closure: Other ways to cross the Mersey when the trains are off".
We agree with one comment on the Globe story - "Inevitably there will be more vehicles (cars and buses) using the Tunnels. Most of the delay at the Tunnels is with vehicles queuing to pay the tolls. They could remove the tolls, in one direction at least, and thus smooth the flow of traffic, but no doubt they will still get their loot from Wirral people.", except that it is not only people who live on the Wirral who are affected.
October 11 - A MAN HALTS TRAFFIC AGAIN
Liverpool Echo 3 October "Man on Wallasey Tunnel approach road bridge was taken to safety" Liverpool Echo 2 October "Police incident closes Wallasey Tunnel".
October 1 - TUNNEL BOSSES PLAN MORE CHAOS
Liverpool Echo 28 September "Wallasey Tunnel to get Fast Tag lane for buses and lorries" Wirral Globe 27 September "Fast Tag lane trial for lorries using Wallasey Tunnel".
We agree with the comment under the Globe story which says that "Having lanes which can only be used by some vehicles causes accidents as drivers switch lanes at the last minute on the approach to the toll barriers. Having a Fast Tag lanes for cars was bad enough but adding lorries to the mix will mean that accidents could be far worse."
October 1 - IOU
The Echo reminds its readers of some of the promises made about reducing or scrapping tolls - Liverpool Echo 15 September "It's been 500 days since the Tories vowed to cut Mersey Tunnel tolls".
One comment under the story says "Perhaps the new mayoral election could focus on getting rid of the tolls and create a unified meseyside region." What a good idea!
Oddly the day after the above report there was another one featuring Joe Anderson and George Osborne - two men who said that they would get the tolls reduced and then suffered amnesia Liverpool Echo 16 September "Liverpool's Mayor joins forces with George Osborne on Northern Powerhouse think tank"
October 1 - IF ONLY!
Wirral Globe 12 Sep "...Twopence To Cross The Mersey...".
September 10 - NIGHT BUS
Liverpool Echo 24 Aug "New weekend cross river night bus being launched between Liverpool, Wirral and Chester".
August 20 - LIVERPOOL CITY COUNCIL PLAN GRIDLOCK ON THE STRAND
Liverpool Echo 19 Aug "Opinion still sharply divided on plans to cut Strand to four lanes" Liverpool Echo 12 Aug "Liverpool's new radical roads plan - your questions answered".
August 20 - PLAN FOR SIX MONTHS OF CROSS RIVER DELAYS
Wirral Globe 5 August "Revealed: All you need to know about the Wirral line closures".
August 20 - ECHO UNCOVERS TUNNELS SECRET: THEY HAVE A CARD MACHINE
Liverpool Echo 2 August "Did you know you can use your debit card for the Mersey Tunnels?".
Best bit of the story is Merseytravel saying "This is just one of the new arrangements in development at both the Wallasey and Birkenhead toll plazas that we think will significantly improve our customer’s experience." They don't give a damn about the users of the Tunnels, if they did then they would scrap the tolls or at least make them payable one way only.
July 29 - MAN HALTS TRAFFIC
Liverpool Echo 21 July "Traffic returns to normal around Wallasey Tunnel after concern for man on bridge" Wirral Globe 21 July "27-year-old taken to hospital following police incident at Wallasey Tunnel" Chester Chronicle 21 July "Wallasey tunnel gridlock after concerns for safety of man on a bridge".
July 29 - POSSIBLE MAYOR "PLEDGES" TOLL CUT
Liverpool Echo 19 July "Metro Mayor hopeful Steve Rotheram pledges Mersey tunnel tolls cut" Wirral Globe 19 July "Steve Rotheram promises to cut fast-tag price for Wirral and Liverpool residents if he wins Metro Mayor election".
July 15 - REFERENDUM
About the only thing that you can be sure of about the EU referendum is that we now have a new Prime Minister and a new Government. Theresa May's husband was brought up on the Wirral, attending a West Kirby school, this gives her a local link but it is still unlikely that she will take an interest in Tunnel tolls.
Among those who have now left the Government is George Osborne, the Chancellor who made the election promises about reducing or scrapping Tunnel tolls. There was little sign that he intended to honour the promises, but there is even less chance that the new Chancellor, Philip Hammond, will do anything. He was briefly in charge of Transport between 2010 and 2011, and if anything he supported tolls.
Tolls were not an issue in the referendum, though in general those in favour of the EU are the establishment acolytes who also favour tolls, and it is a safe bet that all the people connected with Merseytravel will have voted to Remain in the EU.
The main things that influenced how other people voted seemed to be:
Whether or not they were concerned about immigration.
Whether or not they were concerned about sovereignty.
Whether or not they were concerned about the money that we pay to the EU, and if so then whether they believed the claims about how much extra money would be available for the NHS and other services.
Whether or not they believed that trade with the EU would be affected and if so whether or not they believed that Britain was likely to be the loser.
Whether or not they believed the claims that the sky would fall down if we left the EU and that the economy and people would be worse off.
Following the referendum there have been more lies and despite the referendum result there is doubt that Britain will ever leave the EU and gain control over immigration.
Here are some facts:
Britain is one of the most crowded countries in the world. For 2015, net migration figures by nationality were: British nationals minus 40,000, EU plus 184,000 and rest of the World plus 188,000. So there is a large immigration issue whether we are in the EU or not.
Immigration has the effect of increasing the cost of housing, reducing wages and causing more crowding in schools and hospitals and of course on the roads. It is the establishment that gains from immigration not the people, so the establishment is unlikely to allow any reduction in immigration.
As at 2011 (the last official figure) there were 8 million people living in Britain who were not born here. The figure now will be higher, and far higher if you also count people whose parents were not born here.
Migration Watch - "Net Migration Statistics"
Wikipedia - "Foreign-born population of the United Kingdom"
Most of the MPs at Westmister are of the same mind as the politicians in the EU. Though we will have more sovereignty if we leave the EU, it is quite likely that UK politicians will enact the same or similar laws as if we were in the EU. The main difference will be that we will know that it is our own politicians to blame for daft laws.
Britain's contribution to the EU should be £18 billion a year, but we get a rebate which reduces our contribution to £13 billion. Various schemes and sectors in Britain receive about £4.5 million in grants from the EU, so as a nation our net contribution is £8.5 billion. (For about 20 years Merseyside got a big slice of EU grants, possibly as much as three billion pounds, of which almost nothing went into roads. Currently grants coming to Merseyside are in the region of about £75 million a year, again with nothing going into roads.) If we leave the EU then the £13 billion could be used to reduce taxes or increase spending or reduce the Government deficit, it might even be used to scrap tolls! By the time that we leave the EU, so many other things will have happened that it will be difficult to work out where exactly the £13 billion is being used.
Full Fact - "The UK's EU membership fee"
Britain has a trade deficit with the EU of about £61 billion a year (a deficit of nearly £80 billion on goods partly offset by a surplus in services of about £17 billion). So if trade barriers were erected following Brexit, then the EU has more to lose than Britain does.
Prior to the Refefendum the establishment had conspired to give such a gloomy forecast for Brexit that it was inevitable that stock markets and the pound would fall and that this would be hyped by the BBC and others.
With the stock markets, the reality is that one week before the referendum the FT 100 index was at 5950, having fluctuated between 5540 and 6750 earlier in the year. The index today (15 July) is 6670. The post Referendum stories were lies that ignored the normal volatility of the markets
Stock Exchange - Footsie over last 12 months (note that the period covered will move forward each day)
With the pound, it is true that there has been a big fall. In the 12 months before the referendum the pound had fluctuated between one dollar 57 and one dollar 39. The value today (15 July) is one dollar 33. But most of the fall is not due to the Brexit decision, it is due to the Bank of England. Following the referendum result it would have been expected that there would be a rise in interest rates to stop any temporary panic. Instead the Bank of England almost immediately announced that it would create more money and was considering reducing interest rates. The BBC said that the Bank was doing this to save the pound. This was not true, in fact the effect of what the Bank said was to cause further falls in the value of the pound to about one dollar 29. It has since recovered a bit (£1.33 at 15 July) because the Bank has so far not carried out its intentions. The money markets are now waiting to see if the Bank will take action to restore the value of the pound or whether as usual it will seek to create inflation and in particular asset inflation.
XE - Pound and Dollar over last 12 months (note that the period covered will move forward each day)
July 1 - POSSIBLE MAYOR "PROMISES" TO CAMPAIGN TO SCRAP TOLLS
A story that was covered by the BBC but ignored by the local papers: BBC 29 June "Luciana Berger vows to be Liverpool City Region's 'listening Metro Mayor'".
June 21 - REFERENDUM
Tunnel users will not agree on the issue of the EU, though they will probably agree that you can not believe anything that the politicians on either side say. The EU has long been in favour of tolling drivers, but that has probably had little effect on Tunnel tolls, as British politicians will anyway try to get as much out of drivers as they can get away with. Having said that the Alliance of British Drivers have just issued their opinion on the EU issue: "Brexit Wins by a Landslide, in ABD Poll of Members".
June 21 - FREE RUN?
The Wallasey Tunnel was closed to traffic on Sunday 19th for yet another race: this time for runners. These frequent races for cyclists or runners through one of the Tunnels all seem to be organised by private companies who charge the competitors with none of the proceeds going to the Tunnels. Though according to the race company's website, for the first time the Tunnels were charging them for "road closure" and it claimed that one pound of the 23 pound entry fee (excluding 'booking fee') was going to the "Tunnel Authority". There is of course no compensation for drivers whose journeys are disruputed by these closures.
June 21 - GEORGE REMINDED ABOUT TOLLS PROMISE
Chester Chronicle 14 June "Chancellor is STILL looking at what can be done to help Mersey tunnel motorists" Liverpool Echo 13 June "George Osborne says he is STILL looking at cutting or abolishing Mersey tunnel tolls" Liverpool Echo 13 June "This is the moment George Osborne appears to laugh at Esther McVey losing her seat".
June 21 - MORE ACCIDENTS ON TUNNEL APPROACHES
Wirral Globe 6 June "Woman taken to hospital after crash near Wallasey tunnel" Liverpool Echo 6 June "Crash near Wallasey tunnel causes Monday morning chaos for commuters" Liverpool Echo 2 June ""Novice driver" admits causing Birkenhead crash that left motorcyclist fighting for his life".
June 21 - REDUCED CHILD BUS FARES. TO BE FINANCED FROM TUNNEL LOOT?
Unusually the trolls at the Tunnels authority seem to be admitting that they rely on the tolls to finance their other activities and seem to be suggesting that if money is to be spent on reducing child bus fares then the obvious way to finance it is to increase the amount that is looted from the tolls: Liverpool Echo 5 June "50p child bus fare promise could lead to 'rise in tunnel tolls'".
May 31 - WIRRAL COUNCIL CHIEF BOASTS ABOUT TOLLS
Liverpool Echo 24 May "Merseyside metro mayor campaign is underway".
The Wirral boss says "We delivered a reduction in tunnel tolls as we promised". This is not so. A big reduction was promised in all tolls. All that was 'delivered' was a small reduction in Tag tolls.
May 31 - FUTURE IS MORE OF THE PAST
The Echo makes the amazing prediction that in ten years time you will not be able to cross the Mersey for free: Liverpool Echo 22 May "Six things you probably won't be able to do in Liverpool in 10 years time".
If the Echo had campaigned a bit more on the tolls issue then perhaps we might have got rid of tolls by now.
May 20 - SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
Drivers in Bedfordshire get new toll-free bridge to "boost Bedfordshire's economy" - Gov 20 May "Video shows work to create new M1 bridges".
May 31 - TYNE TUNNEL TOLL INCREASE
The cash tolls for cars to use the Tyne Tunnels are being increased to the same leval as the Mersey Tunnels. (The Tyne Tunnels tolls for most goods vehicles are less than on the Mersey Tunnel and buses do not pay at all.): Sunderland Echo 17 May "Tyne Tunnel toll cost set to go up by 10p" Sunderland Echo 18 May "POLL: Is the Tyne Tunnel toll rise fair?".
May 31 - WELSH TOLL QUEUE IS MILES LONG
South Wales Argus 12 May "Two-mile queues on M4 Second Severn Crossing toll booths".
May 10 - HOLD-UP
Liverpool Echo 6 May "Birkenhead tunnel traffic brought to a standstill because of man standing near flyover barrier".
May 10 - REWIRING
Local papers with Merseytravel's press release - Wirral Globe 3 May "Major rewiring of Kingsway tunnel starts today"
Liverpool Echo 3 May "Seventy-five miles of cable to be installed in Wallasey tunnel as part of rewiring project".
May 10 - LOCAL ELECTIONS
The local election on Merseyside resulted in almost no change to the political composition of the Councils and no changes to the administration of any of the Councils. As usual the majority of people did not vote, the turnout in Liverpool was only 31.4% and in Wirral was 35%. All the Merseyside councils are still mainly or entirely composed of councillors who are anti drivers and who don't care about Tunnel tolls.
April 30 - LOCAL ELECTIONS
Local elections are on Thursday 5 May with one third of Council seats up for grabs on Merseyside. There are also elections for the Liverpool Mayor 2016 Mayoral candidates and Merseyside Police & Crime Commissioner 2016 PCC candidates.
The candidates for the Council seats have ignored the tolls issue, apart from Wirral Labour -
Labour are correct in saying that the Chancellor has "failed to deliver on Tunnel toll pledge". But they don't mention that Labour have failed to deliver their pledge and are continuing to plunder the Tunnel tolls. The only party that has a policy of removing the tolls is UKIP, but for most Liverpool and Wirral wards they don't have a candidate.
April 14 - FREEDOM OF INFORMATION - WIRRAL DONATED MONEY FOR MORE TOLLING
This is the first instalment telling you about some of the information requests that the MTUA have made over the last year or two. It is often a hard task getting the answers and by the time that we do get the information it may be stale and the news media are not interested.
This request was made to Wirral Council in September 2014 and it illustrates the difficulty of getting the authorities to admit to anything that might embarass them, though this only took 4 months which compared with many other requests is fast!
There is a scheme to build a toll bridge at Runcorn and to toll the existing untolled bridge. The scheme has been promoted by Halton Council but we are aware that Wirral Council has been involved and this involvement may go back as far as 1994 when the Mersey Crossing Group was set up. We believe that Wirral Council may have made financial contributions to this scheme. We would like to know -
a) When Wirral Council became involved in this scheme,
b) How much the Council contributed in money to the scheme, split between financial years and indicating what the authorisation (e.g. committee and date) was for the contribution.
c) Whether Wirral Council received any money in respect of this scheme, if so then - when, how much and who from.
The Council replied almost immediately saying - "...the Council has not been directly involved in either the implementation or financing of this scheme. The Council therefore has no recorded information to provide to you in response to your enquiry."
There were then a series of messages back and forth. We queried the answer and said that other information that we had suggested that the Council had been involved and we said that we would go to the Information Commissioner if we did not get a satisfactory answer. Eventually on the 20 January 2015 we were told:-
"..the Council has undertaken a further search of all the information available and this has identified that the Council did approve contributing towards the Study for the River Crossing with the reports to Members... (between March 2002 and February 2003)...payments were made to Halton Borough Council in 2001/02 of £35,000, 2002/03 of £35,000 and 2003/04 of £30,000 for a Study – there are no supporting invoices / documentation available."
So Wirral Council paid 100 thousand pounds of Council taxpayers money for a study leading to more tolls to cross the river - and then they forgot all about it!
We could not find out exactly who authorised the spending. At the time, Labour was the biggest party on the Council but did not have a majority, in any case it seems that the Tories and Lib Dems did not object. It may or may not be a concidence that while all this was going on, Merseytravel were persuading Parliament to give them more power over the Tunnel tolls.
April 14 - UKIP DEMONSTRATE AGAIN AGAINST RUNCORN BRIDGE TOLLS
UKIP are having another Tolls Protest. This one will be on Monday 18th April at 7.30 am till 10.00 am on the Widnes side of the Runcorn Bridge. They will be meeting at Irwell Street, West Bank, WA8 0DZ.
Directions to the meeting place:
From M56, on Bridge keep in left hand lane, take 1st exit off Bridge and turn immediate left and follow signs for Catalyst Museum, carry straight on and turn right at the roundabout then keep on and turn left when you see signs for Catalyst Museum, keep on until you reach the No Entry sign and turn right into Irwell Street.
From Liverpool, the Flyover to the Bridge is now closed so use the slip road following the Widnes signs and going through a set of lights, past a McDonalds to the next set of lights, then follow the signs to either the West Bank or the Catalyst Museum..
April 7 - "THANK GOODNESS FOR MTUA"
Wirral Globe 6 April letter "Get rid of tunnel tolls".
April 6 - BUSINESS BOSS LEAVING CITY REGION BOARD
The LiverPeel businessman who heads Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and who is also on the City Region Board that controls the Mersey Tunnels is to step down - Liverpool Echo 5 April "Robert Hough to stand down from Liverpool City Region LEP".
The Labour City Mayor praises the success of the Liverpool Region LEP "with major projects like the Mersey Gateway". What the Mayor does not mention is that the Liverpool LEP area is the most deprived LEP area on England. The tolls that will be placed on the so called Mersey Gateway and the existing Runcorn bridge will probably make the Liverpool area even more deprived than now.
April 6 - SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
Drivers in Chelmsford get a new toll-free bridge - Gov 4 April "Chelmer Viaduct opens to traffic".
April 1 - CAVEAT EMPTOR
From today the differntial between cash tolls and Tagged vehicle tolls has increased. This means that if you are a frequent user of the Tunnels you should probably get a Tag - but beware, the experience at other tolled crossings is that when tolls go 100% cashless, then the toll increases at a faster rate than at those tolls where you pay cash - Wirral Globe 24 March "Mersey Tunnel users urged to apply for a Fast Tag to take advantage of toll reduction".
The Mersesytravel boss tells the Globe that "This is about doing what we can as a City Region to help regular and local users." But the reality is that to get a Tag it makes no difference whether you are a local user or not. And Merseytravel and the City Region will continue to make big profits from the users of the Tunnels. Profits which they probably plan to use on their favourite hobby - electric train sets!
March 18 - ARE THEY HAVING A LAUGH?
Liverpool Echo 17 March "George Osborne's 'broken promise' over Mersey tunnel tolls".
Odd that the Echo should have Labour politicians complaining about the Tories breaking promises, when these same Labour people have also broken their promises on tolls.
March 18 - ENTRANCE TO SECRET TUNNEL UNDER THE TUNNEL REVEALED
Liverpool Echo 17 March "Collapsed manhole at Mersey Tunnel entrance cover causes chaos on roads of Wirral" Wirral Globe 17 March "Collapsed drain cover causes rush-hour chaos near Birkenhead and Wallasey tunnels".
March 17 - GOVERNMENT TO HALVE THE COST ON SEVERN CROSSING - REACTION
Wirral Globe 16 March "Globe Comment: Wirral drivers left in the lurch by budget speech" Wirral Globe 16 March "Chancellor fails to live up to Mersey Tunnel toll cut promises".
March 16 - GOVERNMENT TO HALVE THE COST ON SEVERN CROSSING
In today's Budget speech the Chancellor said "I’ve listened to the case made by Welsh colleagues and I can announce today that from 2018 we are going to halve the price of the tolls on the Severn Crossings." - BBC 16 March "Budget 2016: Severn bridge tolls to be halved".
There is no mention in any of the Budget documents of Mersey Tunnel tolls, could this really be the same Chancellor who a year ago said that tolls on the Mersey Tunnels would be removed, but has done nothing?
Further to our comment on the 12th March about fantasy plans, the Chancellor also said that the Government "will develop the case for a new tunnelled road from Manchester to Sheffield". The Budget document says they will be "developing the future transformation of east-west road connections, including a new Trans-Pennine tunnel under the Peak District between Sheffield and Manchester, as well as options to enhance the A66, A69 and the north-west quadrant of the M60. The government will allocate £75 million, including to develop a business case for these schemes
by the end of the year."
March 14 - MORE ON UKIP DEMO
UKIP demonstrated this morning against the Tunnel tolls, some members of the MTUA were also there - Wirral Globe March 14 "Campaigners continue fight against Mersey Tunnel tolls" Liverpool Echo March 14 "UKIP's Paul Nuttall says Mersey tunnel tolls are a "slap in face" for motorists at Wallasey protest" Click Liverpool March 14 "UKIP’s Paul Nuttall joins Mersey Tunnel protestors" ITV March 14 "UKIP's Paul Nuttall joins protest against Mersey tunnel Tolls".
March 12 - UKIP DEMO
Each year during March UKIP have anti toll demonstrations at various locations around the country. Locally they will be demonstrating on Monday 14th at the usual location - the Oakdale Road bridge over the Mersey Tunnel approaches in Wallasey. They plan to start at 7.30am and finish at 10am.
March 12 - BACK TO FANTASY WORLD
The Government on the 7th March published their latest transport plan for the North -
Department for Transport "Northern transport strategy: spring 2016".
There is no mention of existing tolls or possible new tolls. They say that there are "3 studies looking at dramatically improving east-west road connections". One of these is
a Trans Pennine tunnel. They may well be thinking of tolling any major new road - tunneled or not. The problem is that unless they toll the existing alternative roads, then not enough vehicles would use the new provision. It would be total madness either way, so the polticians may well think it is a good idea.
March 12 - ACCIDENTS
Liverpool Echo March 8 "Monday madness as string of car crashes cause commuter misery" Wirral Globe March 5 "Two-car smash closed Birkenhead Tunnel" Liverpool Echo March 4 "Birkenhead tunnel now re-opened after rush hour crash chaos".
There is of course no indication as to whether the accidents were connected with the introduction of 'Fast Tag' only lanes.
March 12 - BREAKING THE TUNNELS BY-LAWS
Two men are gaoled for stealing from a bicycle shop and driving very dangerously, incidentally they failed to pay the tolls - Liverpool Echo March 4 "High speed chase saw burglars drive wrong way down M57 and reach 90mph in Mersey Tunnels"
February 24 - BIT MORE ON THE GRAND THEFT
# At the launch of the "Take the Tunnel Users for a Ride" report last night in a room at the House of Commons, there were four main speakers - Lord Adonis the Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Joe Anderson the Mayor of Liverpool, Phillip Blond the boss of ResPublica, and Louise Ellman the MP for Liverpool Riverside who is also Chair of the Transport Select Committee.
Lord Adonis used to be a Labour Minister but is now a Tory appointee. While he was a Minister, he was anti-car and introduced the Local Transport Act 2008 which made it easier to toll any road.
Joe Anderson a year ago led the revolt against Merseytravel's profit taking from the tolls but has since been brought back into the fold. Oddly back in 2004 he was backing cuts in the tolls - Daily Post Nov 22 2004 "Pressure grows for tunnel tolls cut".
Phillip Blond is a Scouser in London and before he set up ResPublica he was director of the "Progressive Conservatism Project".
Louise Ellman is pro tolls and voted in favour of making it easier for Merseytravel to increase Tunnels tolls and use them for anything that took their fancy.
# Others commenting yesterday on this scheme included-
Phil Davies, the Leader of Wirral Council who said "...The idea of using the surplus from the tunnel tolls is not an idea I support...I’d rather see the tunnel money used to bring down the tolls in the future.”
That is great the only question is that given he was chair of the authority till December, why did he let Merseytravel stymie last February's proposal to stop Merseytravel taking profits taking from the tolls?
Angela Eagle, the Wallasey MP who said she supports the scheme but said nothing about the use of tolls. Perhaps not surprising as she was the only Wirral MP who backed Merseytravel being given the power to put tolls up and spend the money on their various schemes. A fact that most of the people who faithfully vote for her are probably not aware.
Paul Nuttall from UKIP who said - "...Tunnel users ... are already unfairly taxed and expecting them to pay further for a scheme they may well never use is outrageous."
# Many people who are opposed to the use of tolls seem to otherwise back the scheme. Though like the politicians they might support any big scheme which is new and shiny and have fallen for the hype about the benefits while not caring about the cost and who is going to pay for it - as long as it is someone else. So here are a few points about this scheme which have largely been overlooked in the hype -
1. This region would be the only one that would be paying to have whatever the benefits are. Why should we pay billions when Manchester is getting it for nothing?
2. In terms of journey times, the benefits for someone travelling to London are not that great. The high speed trains would still come to Liverpool. The only difference is that if this scheme was to go ahead then instead of 100% of the journey being at high speed, about 80 to 85% would be high speed and the rest (from about Crewe to Liverpool) would be at existing speeds.
The report that was published yesterday says that the journey to London currently takes 134 minutes. HS2 from London to Birmingham will reduce the time to Liverpool to 106 minutes and HS2 from Birmingham to Crewe will reduce the journey time to Liverpool to 92 minutes. Though the report advocates spending £3 billion on HS2 from Crewe to Liverpool it does not say what effect it will have on the journey time. Our guess is that it would save a further 5 to 8 minutes. Who would spend three billion so that a relatively small number of people have that time cut off their journey?
And the people advocating this are the same people who do not care about the time wasted and the pollution that is caused by the queues at the tolls.
3. Faster journey times to London will benefit their businesses more than ours. Which is more likely - more people going from London to Liverpool for work, shopping amd entertainment - or the opposite?
February 23 - LATER REPORTS ON THE GRAND THEFT
Wirral Globe Feb 23 "Taken for a ride: Think tank says tunnel tolls should be used to pay for Liverpool's high speed rail link" Click Liverpool Feb 23 "Backlash after proposal for tunnel tolls to be used for HS2 link funding" L'pool Echo Feb 23 "Tunnel users object to tolls being used to pay for high speed rail link" Wirral Globe Feb 23 "COMMENT: Using Mersey Tunnel tolls to pay for Liverpool's rail link is way off track"
February 23 - GRAND THEFT
News has come in that the Liverpool City Region is today going to propose that a Two billion pound link should be built from Liverpool to connect to the planned HS2 line (phase 2) to Manchester. Part of the funding would somehow come from devolved business rates and employers' National Insurance contributions (if they can get their hands on them and don't spend them on something else) and the rest from the Tunnels tolls. L'pool Echo Feb 23 "Mersey Tunnel tolls should be used to pay for Liverpool link to the high-speed rail network - report" BBC Feb 23 "Liverpool, Hull and Newcastle 'left behind' without HS2" FT Feb 23 "Liverpool presses to part-fund HS2 extension"
This is the full report that the City Region commissioned and which is published today - ResPublica "Ticket to Ride:" (large pdf file)
What it says about the financing is -
"We propose that the City Region can credibly make a contribution of up to £2 billion to the cost of this line, paid for by local retention of business rates (as announced by the Chancellor in October 2015) and employers’ National Insurance contributions in the City Region from any additional jobs that are generated over and above the structural jobs growth trend for the City Region, together with the capitalisation of revenue from the Mersey Tunnels tolls."
".....although not included in the figures given here, we believe that borrowing against the revenue raised from tolls collected from the use of the Kingsway and Queensway tunnels under the River Mersey could make a further contribution to the Liverpool City Region’s payback offer. The Mersey Tunnels represent a sustainable source of revenue for the City Region; after operating costs and debt repayment contributions are excluded, there remains surplus revenue of between £12 million and £14 million annually.
Work by Grant Thornton for the City Region calculated that the current capitalised value of this surplus is around £500 million over a 35 year period. This would represent a further substantial contribution towards the cost of the high speed connection we advocate"
February 22 - MORE ON THE REDS AND THE BLUES ALLIANCE AND ON THE TOLLS "TASK GROUP"
This story was prepared before we heard that Tunnels tolls were to be used to pay for a new railway line. For that story see the one above this one.
Here we deal further with the alliance between the Labour run City Region and the Conservative Government and what has been going on with the "Task group" that was supposed to have been set up a year ago to stop the profit taking from the tolls.
At the budget meeting of the City Region in February last year Joe Anderson, the Liverpool Mayor, said that it "was fundamentally wrong" that Merseytravel were taking Tunnel tolls to spend on their other activities. The meeting agreed to set up a "Task Group" to look at this. In the year following the meeting, the MTUA made several requests for details of the Task Group, following our latest request the MTUA have now been told by the authority that the Task Group had their first and so far only meeting on 7 January. Press and public were not admitted to the meeting and so far nothing has been published on the City Region or Merseytravel websites.
These are the documents (as pdfs) that the authority released to the MTUA last week -
Agenda for 7 January meeting Terms of reference 'Project initiation' Historical Legislation Overview 'Tolls impact study' summary 'Tolls impact study' presentation.
A year ago, the then chair of the authority, Phil Davies from Wirral Council said that "I think that we can make some rapid progress on this". Whatever the intentions were it seems that this Task Group was then shunted onto the sidings and did not meet for nearly a year. We asked the authority for the minutes that would show what was said or decided at the one and only meeting but they have refused to release them. They say that the minutes have not yet been "formally agreed to share".
It was resolved last February that the head of the City Region would produce "a report for discussion to inform the setting of tunnel tolls for 2016/17". It seems that instead of that report, the Task Group were given other reports whose aim seems to have been to make sure that there was no change to the status quo. The whole process seems to be a smokescreen, perhaps in the hope that people will forget about the promises that were made by both Labour and the Conservatives before last May's elections.
The City Region also agreed a year ago that they would talk to the Government about the tolls as part of the "devolution negotiations". The devolution deal was signed at the end of last year, and nothing had been agreed about tolls except that "The Department for Transport will continue to work with the Liverpool City Region in the review of the tolls on the Mersey Tunnels". We have asked both the City Region and the Government for details of the contacts between them on the subject of Tunnel tolls. They have both refused to reveal anything at all.
They both say that this information is "exempt" from Freedom of Information and that it is "not in the public interest" to reveal anything. On the contrary the MTUA believe that it is in the public interest that it is known exactly what the authority have been saying to the Government about tolls and what the replies are. We fear that instead of doing something to stop the profit taking by Merseytravel and reducing all the tolls, this issue is to be buried.
February 15 - LATEST ON THE REDS AND THE BLUES ALLIANCE
Merseytravel and the City Region have for some time been claiming that they were talking to the Government about tolls. So in September we asked them for:
1. A list of all contacts, with the Government or Government officials after January 2015 which have included any mention or discussion of Tunnel tolls or toll powers.
2. A copy of any documents (i.e. emails received or sent to the Government or Government officials and any agendas or minutes of any meetings with the Government or Government officials) after January 2015, which include any mention of the tolls.
To cut a long story short, the authority refused to tell us anything as it was "not in the public interest" and we have complained to the Information Commissioner.
We asked the Government the same questions at the beginning of December. So far they appear to be struck dumb and are not even able to say "No", only that like Hamlet they will ponder the question.
This strange alliance between Labour and the Conservative Government to hide what they are (or are not) doing is made odder by claims in recent Conservative leaflets: "Mersey Tunnel tolls - As promised at the last election, the recent budget confirmed that a study will be carried out to see how the tolls can be cut, if not scrapped altogether. We're backing the call to scrap the tolls."
What the Chancellor said (not in Parliament, but buried in a large report) about tolls made no mention of scrapping or even cutting them - "the government will work with relevant local partners carrying out a review of the tolls on the Mersey tunnels." (see our news for 9 July 2015).
But what the Chancellor said before May is that he would scrap the tolls, a good example which is hard to deny is this audio extract an interview last April (the clip starts with promises about tolls on the so called Mersey Gateway bridge)
We have also done this summary of some of the Tory promises before the election.
We are still hoping that the Chancellor will honour what he said, but it is looking increasingly likely that far from helping users of the Tunnels, the Government will continue to let Merseytravel and the City Region use the Tunnels as an ATM with no cash limit.
February 15 - BIT MORE ON THE TOLLS DECISION
After the local politicians refused to honour the implied commitment to stop profiting from the Tunnels and thuse reduce all tolls, we sent - this letter to them on the 8th (pdf).
Brian Kendal of MTUA speaking to Roger Philips on Radio Merseyside on 5th (9 minutes audio).
February 15 - ANOTHER TUNNEL AD
As usual this story contains the myth that the "Queensway" tunnel opened in 1934. In fact the tunnel was completed and opened in 1933. What happened in 1934 (July) was that the Royals came along to visit their subjects and unveil Royal statues to be paid for from the tolls - Liverpool Echo Feb 14 "Meet the men who painted the Birkenhead tunnel while Merseyside slept".
February 5 - CITY REGION TOLLS DECISION
After the meeting - From John Brace the Wirral and Merseyside blogger "Liverpool City Region Combined Authority decides ...." this includes a verbatim report of what was said Liverpool Echo Feb 5 "Mersey Tunnel's Fast Tag prices cut and cash tolls frozen from April".
Our press release -
"...after the meeting, John McGoldrick for the MTUA said that what happened at the meeting confirmed the suspicion that it was all decided before the meeting. He pointed out that the authority would still be making a massive profit from the Tunnels and that most users of the Tunnels would not be seeing the reductions in tolls promised last year. He added that it seemed that either the authority were deluded or that they hoped to delude the public of Merseyside."
At the meeting -
From John Brace the Wirral and Merseyside blogger You Tube - "Liverpool City Region Combined Authority 5th February 2016 Part 2 of 2" video of meeting.
The meeting had been going on for over an hour before they reached the tolls item, though none of the members spoke apart from the chairman. Not that their silence made much difference as the public find it almost impossible to hear what is being said. One thing that was audible was that hundreds of millions are going to be spent to benefit rail users with lots of new services, new lines and money to replace the trains - apparently being financed by a grant from the Government.
When they did get to the tolls report (9 pages) they disposed of it in three minutes. The officer presenting it said almost nothing as did the chairman.
About the only member who spoke, took up two of the three minutes saying how he welcomed what was happening, mentioned his participation in the shadowy 'toll task group' and said that the reduced tolls were a "dividend" from the Devolution agreed with the Government.
The authority claim that tolls concessions were the result of Devolution should be considered alongside yesterday's attack on the Government for doing nothing about the tolls and proves that it really is possible to believe two impossible things at the same time.
There was no formal vote on the tolls report, but after the chairman said it was agreed the Leader of Halton Council said he was abstaining. In the past Merseytravel have said that Halton can't vote on the tolls and at the meetings Halton abstain. Merseytravel must think that this keeps up their fiction, but you can't abstain unless you could have voted. One of the authorities that should have been there was St Helens but they seem not to bother to attend.
One other thing that we noticed is that none of the members either at today's meeting or yesterday's declared any financial interest in the Tolls item. Do they use the Tunnels? Do they have Fast Tags?
The tolls 'debate' was virtually non existent, but the authority spent even less time on the next item which was the £330 million Budget for the region. The budget includes the Tunnel tolls. They disposed of the whole budget in two minutes.
Before the meeting -
Liverpool Click Feb 5 "Liverpool City Council to consider Mersey Tunnel toll cuts today".
The MTUA chairman, Dave Loudon, sent out another plea to the Leaders on the City Region authority. He reminded them of the facts that had been ignored at yesterday's Merseytravel meeting and said "...I realise that you are in a difficult position because you have been presented with a budget that assumes there will be a profit of £12.7 million, but I again ask that you bear in mind what was said at your meeting a year ago and that you support measures that will utilise all the profits to reduce tolls, including the cash tolls which are the ones that affect most users of the Tunnels and nearly all visitors to the area."
The above was sent before we saw a Radio City website report which seemed to have been written by Merseytravel and indicated that today's meeting was only a formality. Joe Anderson, the Liverpool Mayor and chairman of the City Region was quoted as saying “These proposals reflect our commitment to offering tunnel users the best deal we can – now and into the future. I am hoping our future discussions on tolling can come up with even better value for users.” "Freeze For Mersey Tunnel Toll Costs?".
This morning we sent out a press release which included that we
"...expected that the City Region would rubber stamp the Merseytravel proposals as it was now clear that the real decisions had already been made behind closed doors. The City Region draft budget has been prepared assuming that there will be no reduction in cash tolls and it would be very difficult for them to now reduce cash tolls."
"We are very disappointed that the politicians on Merseytravel and the City Region have not honoured what was said a year ago. Joe Anderson, the Liverpool Mayor, said that using the Tunnel tolls to finance Merseytravel's other activities "was fundamentally wrong" and "that all the profits that are made from the Tunnels should go into driving down the Tunnel tolls costs". That would have enabled them to reduce all tolls by about one third or make other concessions such as no tolls in the evenings or at weekends. The 'task force' that was supposed to implement the changes seems to have been a mirage. Far from stopping the profit taking, the politicians are planning to make another £13 million in profits this year."
"The MTUA had lobbied the politicians and given them the real facts about the Tunnels finances, but it seems that they have not bothered to listen to us. They have done next to nothing for most users of the Tunnels, yet at yesterday's Merseytravel meeting they were praising themselves for what they had done for users."
"It now seems certain that users of the Tunnels will continue to be used as cash cows by the Labour run Merseytravel and the City Region, we are now looking to see whether the Conservative Government will honour what George Osborne and others said before last year's elections about reducing or removing tolls. Though we are not hopeful as since the election the Government has been like the three wise monkeys on the issue of Tunnel tolls."
February 4 - MERSEYTRAVEL TOLLS DECISION
After the meeting - Liverpool Echo Feb 4 "Mersey tunnels toll freeze plan approved by Merseytravel councillors" Wirral Globe Feb 4 "UPDATED: Merseytravel approves plan to freeze tunnel tolls for third successive year".
At the meeting -
From John Brace the Wirral and Merseyside blogger Whole of the meeting on You Tube Tunnel tolls part of the meeting.
There was a large demonstration outside the Mann Island HQ of the authority. No! It was not the MTUA. It was members of the RMT union protesting against Merseytravel proposals to axe the 200 guards from local train services.
The Merseytravel councillors spent only 15 minutes on the tolls item, and the debate might have been scripted by Lewis Carroll. They started with the repeated claim that has been headlined in the press that this was the third year running that tolls had been frozen. As the tolls were increased in April 2014, we are not sure whether Merseytravel can't do simple arithmetic or whether they assume that the public can't add up.
They said that the tolls decision had been 'informed' by the review carried out by the task group set up a year ago. This is strange because we have so far been unable to find anything out about this mystery group.
It was claimed that increasing the Fast Tag toll discount was the “best option for targeting local users”. The reality is that many Fast Tag holders do not live in the City Region whereas many of those without tags do live in the region. Merseytravel are so irrational that they went on to say that many people with Fast Tags did not live in the region but it was important that they get a discount as they might work or shop in the area!
The usual fairy story was trotted out about how the authority had asked “does anyone else want to take on that responsibility, Governments of various natures most typically the last Government said quite firmly no”. The reality is that the authority's main aim has been to make a profit from the Tunnels and the last thing that they want is to lose their power over the Tunnels and its users.
There was boasting about this "huge piece of engineering" and so on, and that they take the “credit” for it. Perhaps Merseytravel believe that they built the Tunnels, but the truth is that the Tunnels were built by workers long before Merseytravel had the Tunnels handed to them on a plate - by a Conservative Government!
This was followed by a long attack by Merseytravel on the Conservatives and particularly attacking the Chancellor for not honouring what was said last year about a Conservative Government reducing or removing tolls. You might wonder what the Conservative reaction was to this attack on them. The answer is that there was no reaction as the only Conservative member of Merseytravel was not at the meeting.
Merseytravel was also "taking full credit" for letting emergency vehicles use the Tunnels without paying tolls. Perhaps they will also accept the "credit" for the many years that they forced those vehicles to pay tolls and credit for still inflicting tolls on all other Tunnels users.
The Labour councillors eulogised of how wonderful they were with the Tunnels being “ a star attraction .. safest in the world” etc and said how “they should be congratulated” then said that they had honoured what Labour had promised. It seems that Merseytravel either have no idea what they promised or don't care. A year ago it was suggested by them that there would be an end to profit taking and that tolls would be substantially reduced, but the situation now is that most users of the Tunnels will not see any reduction in tolls and there will still be a massive profit.
There was then another attack on the Conservative Government who it was said had given no assistance. And then there was another eulogy of how great Merseytravel were delivering the Tunnels “service at the best possible price.
Bizarrely the tolls discussion concluded with an attack on the bus companies for their high fares and profits. There was no mention of Merseytravel's' profit from Tunnel tolls and no mention of rail where the companies must also make profits and receive vast subsidies via Merseytravel.
If bus passengers were subsidised at the same level as train passengers, then the bus companies could probably provide the bus services without charging any fares.
And if Tunnel users were subsidised at the same rate as train passengers then instead of collecting tolls they would probably have to give money to the drivers each time that they drove through the Tunnels!
Before the meeting - Liverpool Echo Feb 4 "Decision due on Mersey tunnel tolls prices".
Today's meeting is pointless, as Merseytravel no longer have the power to decide the tolls. It is the City Region who now decide the tolls. It is also pointless as the decision may have already been made behind closed doors. The Budget to be approved by the City Region tomorrow assumes that the tolls will be at the level recommended by Merseytravel officers - i.e. cash tolls would stay the same while tag tolls are reduced by 20 pence.
Copy of a letter that we sent to members of the City Region and Merseytravel before the meetings. (9 page pdf).
February 4 - A PAGE FROM THE DIARY
The Leader of Wirral Council has a weekly 'Diary' in the Wirral News. This week it is all about the wonderful job that he and the Combined Authority have done for users of the Tunnels including "making it cheaper for people to use the tunnel to visit Wirral's outstanding parks, beaches and open spaces... we are living up to the pledges that we have made to Wirral residents".
It is no wonder that the Leader is shown as smiling; the vast majority of visitors will be paying cash tolls which have not been reduced despite what he said a year ago about "lifting this huge burden".
February 1 - REPORTS GOING TO CITY REGION ON FRIDAY 5th
TOLLS 2016/17 report (9 pages) Proposed Budget for City Region - 18 pages.
January 29 - MORE ON TOLL CHANGES
Leader of Wirral Council speaking yesterday about the toll proposals to Simon Hoban of Radio Merseyside(6 minutes audio).
January 28 - TOLL CHANGES NOT EVEN HALF A LOAF
Merseytravel and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority are due to meet at the end of next week to decide on the tolls from April. We had expected that there would at least be no increases and had hoped that the politicians would honour the promise that they would no longer use users of the Tunnels as a cash cow.
It was revealed yesterday afternoon and confirmed in a report that is going to the Merseytravel Committee that they are proposing to reduce Tag tolls by twenty pence but are doing nothing about the cash tolls. They will still be making a vast profit. The MTUA are pleased that our efforts over the years have had some effect but disappointed that users of the Tunnels will still be fleeced.
BBC Jan 27 "Mersey tunnels: Plans to increase tolls scrapped" Liverpool Echo Jan 27 "New Mersey Tunnel toll plans set to cut costs for Fast Tag users" Wirral Globe Jan 27 "Mersey Tunnel tolls set to be frozen for third successive year" (the tolls were increased in April 2014, so this will be the second year without an increase, not the third).
The Liverpool Echo have printed our reaction Liverpool Echo Jan 28 "Mersey tunnel campaigners say tolls are still unfair" ,
Here is our full statement that we made to the press yesterday -
It is in the news today that cash tolls for the Tunnels will not be increased this year and that Fast Tag tolls will be reduced. There is apparently to also be a lifting of tolls on Christmas Day and no tolls at any time for "emergency service liveried vehicles". This news is based on a report to be considered next week (Thursday 4th) by the Merseytravel Committee, though the actual decision on tolls will not be made till a meeting of the City Region leaders on Friday 5th February.
Though this proposal is better than the usual fare doled out to users of the Tunnels it is according to the Mersey Tunnels Users Association nothing like what was supposed to happen if the politicians had honoured what they had said before last May's elections.
John McGoldrick for the MTUA points out that Joe Anderson, the Liverpool Mayor, at last February's budget meeting for the City Region said that he wanted to put a stop to Merseytravel using the profits from the tolls and that using the tolls to finance other infrastucture "was fundamentally wrong". The Mayor also said I think that all the profits that are made from the Tunnels should go into driving down the Tunnel tolls costs." It was agreed at the budget meeting that the Region set up a task force on this. It was also indicated that there would be negotiations with the Government. It turned out that it was the Conservatives who the City Region would be negotiating with, and they had also made promises about reducing or removing Tunnel tolls.
John McGoldrick also said that, despite the reduction of tolls for Fast Tag users, Merseytravel and the City region would still be making nearly 13 million pounds in toll profits in the coming year. He said that -
"This is on top of the 140 million pounds that they have already made in profits following the passing of the Tunnels Act 2004."
"It is a scandal that the users of the Tunnels are still treated as cash cows after the promises that were made before the May elections. This is not only unfair, it also divides the region and must harm the local economy. We urge everyone to contact the local councillors and insist that the profit taking end and that ALL tolls are substantially reduced."
"Though the Labour run City Region are doing next to nothing, the users of the Tunnels have not forgotten that the Conservative party also made promises about reducing or abolishing Tunnel tolls. Since then there has been almost complete silence from the Government and we fear that they intend to do nothing."
And this is John McGoldrick of MTUA speaking with Simon Hoban on Radio Merseyside yesterday (8 minutes audio).
January 25 - TOLL REVIEW TIME
You can tell that it's time for a possible toll increase as the Echo has a free advert for the Tunnels, with no mention of the tolls - Liverpool Echo Jan 24 "What's below (and above) the Mersey Tunnels?".
January 25 - TYNE TUNNELS TOLL INCREASE
The Tyne Tunnels are the only river crossing in Britain that has the same tolls regime as the Mersey Tunnels, but there is no organised opposition to the tolls. The cash toll is currently ten pence cheaper than the Mersey Tunnels but will increase to the same level as us (one pound 70)in April - Shields Gazette Jan 20 "Drivers’ anger over Tyne Tunnel toll price hike".
The Tyne Tunnels give a 10 per cent discount for those who prepay.
January 25 - CRASH AT LIVERPOOL ENTRANCE TO BIRKENHEAD TUNNEL
Liverpool Echo Jan 21 "Mersey tunnel congestion warning after two-car crash leaves man in hospital".
January 25 - MERSEYTRAVEL SHOW BACK
Liverpool Echo Jan 21 "Brick Up the Mersey Tunnels at Royal Court Liverpool".
January 25 - TUNNELS CLOSED DUE TO POSSIBLE JUMPS
Liverpool Echo Jan 18 "Both lanes of Wallasey Tunnel closed after concerns for safety of man on bridge nearby".
January 25 - XMAS PRESENT FROM TUNNEL BOSSES
Wirral Globe Jan 13 "Long wait in Yule tunnel queue".
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