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December 3 - TOLLS DEBATE
Christian Matheson, Labour MP for Chester, applied in October for a debate on tolls on the Mersey crossing - Tunnels and bridges. The debate has now been arranged for Tuesday 5th December at 9.30 AM in Westminster Hall.
We do not know what ground he aims to cover, but below is what he said to the Backbench Businesses Committee on 24th October when he requested time for a debate.
"..This issue, as I said in my application, is causing consternation in the sub-region that I represent. There are now four crossings on the River Mersey and every single one is tolled: there are two tunnels and now two bridges.
The problem is that the first bridge—the original crossing—from Runcorn to Widnes, has also been tolled now that the new Mersey crossing has opened. Essentially, that potentially adds a commuting cost of £1,000 to people who, until now, did not have to pay. It comes at a time when bridges in other parts of the country—the crossings across the Forth and, following the Government’s recent announcement, the Severn—are being abolished. So people in my area are rather bewildered and a little let down that we have to pay those charges. Not only is the introduction of a retrospective charge putting people’s backs up, but we are seeing the contrary in other parts of the country.
Ms McDonagh just spoke of nuts and bolts issues and I accept that this is somewhat of a niche issue for my sub-region, but because the crossings are fairly central to that sub-region, in order to get from one side of the Mersey to the other, it is pretty important to the lives of many people.
The new crossing has opened in the last week. The old Runcorn-Widnes bridge, which will in turn be tolled, is closed for repairs and construction, so everyone has been having to go across the new crossing. There have been public demonstrations against the tolls as the bridge has opened, and there is a feeling that we seem to be getting the wrong end of the stick, which other parts of the country do not get...."
We have given our views to local MPs in this document - Scrap Mersey Tolls note for information of MPs - 1 Dec.
December 3 - BUS PROBLEM
The closure of SJB is making some people late for work - World 2 Dec "Late buses could cost people their jobs" letter.
December 3 - FINES AGAIN
Liverpool Echo 1 Dec "How I avoided paying my 28 Mersey Gateway fines" lot of comments (also in Chester Chronicle on 2nd) Chester Chronicle 25 Nov "This landmark Mersey Gateway ruling could impact all fine appeals" Liverpool Echo 25 Nov "Landmark ruling could affect all Mersey Gateway fine appeals" comments.
December 3 - CRASH!!!
Echo 1 Dec "Mersey Gateway users get extra 24 hours to pay fines after website CRASHES".
Interesting that the Echo gets tolls and 'fines' mixed up.
December 3 - RED COMPLAINS
Echo 27 Nov "Former Liverpool star slams Mersey Gateway tolls system in Twitter outburst - and plenty of others agree" comments.
December 3 - MISERYGATE SAY THAT THEY GIVE DRIVERS ONLY A SHORT TIME TO PAY BECAUSE THEY WANT TO HELP DRIVERS AVOID FINES
Echo 27 Nov "Why you only have 24 hours to pay Mersey Gateway bridge toll" comments (also in Chester Chronicle on 28th).
November 23 - 'ONLY' 50,000 FINES
Liverpool Echo 22 Nov "Mersey Gateway say 50,000 fines in bridge's first month is "relatively small" number" comments.
November 21 - FINE TIME
Yesterday, John McGoldrick, a spokesman for Scrap Mersey Tolls was on BBC and ITV local news talking about the issue of fines. Here are some more of the recent stories in the press -
Daily Post North Wales 21 Nov "Driver wins appeal over Mersey toll bridge fine...and this is how he did it" Echo 21 Nov "Man fined for not paying toll on Mersey Gateway bridge - but he's never crossed it" lot of comments (same story in Chester Chronicle)
Daily Post Wales 20 Nov "Toll bridge drivers hit with £1m in fines in a month" comments.
November 20 - MORE ON FINES
The first story includes quotes from the no tolls side - Echo 20 Nov ""Mersey Gateway bosses have ordered drivers to pay more than £1m in fines in the first month" comments Liverpool Echo 17 Nov "Driver fined TEN TIMES for crossing the Mersey Gateway bridge" comments.
November 19 - MORE ON CALL FOR XMAS BREAK
Chester Standrad 19 Nov "Call for Mersey crossing tolls to be scrapped for Christmas" Chester Chronicle 17 Nov "Mersey Gateway bosses reject plea for bridge tolls to be scrapped this Christmas" Echo 16 Nov "Bridge bosses turn down request for free bridge crossings this Christmas".
November 19 - NEVER MIND THE QUALITY FEEL THE WIDTH
World 16 Nov "Mersey Gateway bridge hailed success after two million vehicles cross in first month" comments Echo 16 Nov "Drivers tell tales of Mersey Gateway woe but bosses say "it's really popular"" lot of comments.
November 19 - HAVING A FINE TIME
Only 9,000 fines a week - Warrington Guardian 15 Nov "REVEALED: 35,000 Mersey Gateway fines handed out to motorists in four weeks" World 15 Nov "NEW BRIDGE: 35,000 fines issued for non payment of tolls in first four weeks".
Or is it only 2,000 fines a week? Echo 17 Nov ""It's highway robbery": ECHO readers slam 'disgusting' Mersey Gateway Bridge fines" comments Daily Post Wales 17 Nov Mersey Gateway drivers rack up £50,000 worth of fines in just SEVEN DAYS" comments (same story in Chester Chronicle).
Tolls gang reply to anger - Daily Post Wales 13 Nov "Mersey toll bridge operator responds to angry drivers hit with fines" comments.
November 19 - LETTER CLAIMS THAT THERE IS NO MORE TRAFFIC IN WARRINGTON
Warrington Guardian 15 Nov ""Is it me or has there been no noticeable difference in traffic since the new bridge opened?"" some contrary comments.
November 19 - ASA COMPLAINT STORY
Echo 13 Nov "Advertising watchdog upholds Mersey Gateway tolls complaint".
November 12 - FINE ANGER
Daily Post Wales 11 Nov "What hundreds of furious Daily Post readers had to say about new Mersey toll bridge" comments Daily Post Wales 10 Nov "Mersey toll bridge anger by Liverpool Airport travellers hit by fines" lot of comments.
November 12 - KNOCK ON
Changes are to be made to junction of M62 and M6. No connection of course to traffic diverting away from Halton! Highways England 10 Nov "Testing starts for innovative Warrington motorway trial".
November 12 - CALL FOR XMAS BREAK
World 10 Nov "Call for Mersey Gateway bridge tolls to be waived at Christmas" Chester Chronicle 9 Nov "Calls for Mersey Gateway bridge tolls to be scrapped over Christmas" Echo 9 Nov "MP calls for bridge tolls to be ditched over Christmas".
November 12 - DECISION ON ANOTHER TOLLS SCAM DELAYED FURTHER
DfT 7 Nov "Planning Act 2008: application for the proposed Silvertown Tunnel development consent order, further extension".
November 6 - NEVER MIND THE TOLLS HERE IS ANOTHER PICTURE OF THE BRIDGE
World 5 Nov "Send us your images of Halton".
November 6 - CHESTER MP TRYING TO GET DEBATRE
Chester Standard 4 Nov "Chester MP says constituents are have been "let down" by Mersey tolls".
November 6 - MP MEETS WITH MINISTER
This may have been little more than a five minute chat, we will wait to see if the Minister comes up with a response. Warrington Guardian 31 Oct "Transport minister to ‘investigate options for alleviating burden’ of tolls for town’s motorists" lot of comments.
November 6 - SCRAP MERSEY TOLLS PETITION
There is a new petition, though onlt three news sources mention it. The Wirral Globe also has a poll about scrapping Tunnels tolls, at the time of adding this story, 1,100 people had voted, 97% of votes agreeing that Mersey Tunnel tolls should be scrapped. Wirral Globe 3 Nov "New petition calls to scrap all Mersey tolls to end 'highway robbery'" includes a POLL Chester Standard 1 Nov "Call to scrap "unfair" tolls as more than one million vehicles cross the new Mersey Gateway Bridge" Click L'pool 30 Oct "New petition calls for end to all Mersey tolls".
November 6 - 'BRIDGE TOLLS WILL FINANCIALLY BUST MANY COMMUTERS'
World 1 Nov Letter from Conn O'Dwyer.
November 6 - MAKING MILLIONS
You have to read the comments to realise that most of this million are not paying tolls and that a large proportion," of those that would now have to pay tolls, must be crossing elsewhere. World 30 Oct "More than one million vehicles cross the new Mersey Gateway" comments.
November 6 - PFI FIRMS AVOID TAX
No prizes for guessing whether the PFI firms behind the Turpin bridge will be paying any UK tax or not. BBC 27 Oct "PFI: five firms avoid tax despite £2bn profits, BBC learns".
October 28 - WE HAVE WAYS OF RIPPING YOU OFF
Mirror 28 Oct "Terrified single mum who broke down on bridge with two children forced to PAY £100 to be towed" comments Echo 28 Oct "Terrified mum who broke down on Runcorn bridge with two children forced to PAY £150" LOT of comments.
There is no mention of the fact that under the draconian Turpin Bridge bye-laws if your vehicle stops on the bridge due to a breakdown or flat tyre etc, then you HAVE to do nothing to fix it. You are not even allowed to call a breakdown service. If you do then you can be fined up to £1,000. You have to let them tow your vehicle away and then pay whatever sum they decide that they can fleece you for, as there is no scale of charges.
October 28 - LOCAL MP SPEAKS OUT
From South Wirral Satandard of 26 Oct -
October 23 - MAYOR OF LONDON TURNS GARROTE SCREW ON DRIVERS TIGHTER
The Mayor of London is planning to copy Halton Council by building a new river crossing and using that as an excuse for tolling the existing free crossing. BBC 23 Oct "T-Charge: New London traffic charge comes into force".
October 24 - CELEBRATIONS CONTINUE
World 24 Oct "Free bus trips across the Mersey Gateway to celebrate bridge opening".
October 23 - APPEALING
Fleet News 23 Oct "Traffic Penalty Tribunal to decide appeals against penalties issued for not paying the new Mersey Gateway toll".
October 20 - HALTON PULL SURPRISE FOR WALKERS AND CYCLISTS
World 20 Oct "Silver Jubilee to close for pedestrians and cyclists on weekdays during refurbishment".
October 20 - LOOK AT THE PRETTY FIREWORKS, AGAIN, AND AGAIN, AND ......
Echo 20 Oct "Fireworks display which opened new Mersey Gateway cost around £50,000".
October 20 - MISERYLINK ENGINEER PROUD
World 20 Oct "Engineer proud of 'iconic bridge'".
The purpose of a bridge is to enable people to cross a river in the most economical and efficient way. Instead they have for some strange reason built a high level bridge over a river that ships do not go up and which you could almost walk across at low tide. It also has the declared aim of REDUCING the traffic crossing the river. Why should an engineer be proud of any of this?
October 19 - MP ASKS TO TALK
Warrington Guardian 19 Oct "Transport minister agrees to hold meeting over tolls controversy after being pressed by MP" comments.
October 19 - FINES? SURELY NOT?
Echo 18 Oct "Is Mersey Gateway bridge "milking the motorist" or "technology at its best"?" comments Echo 18 Oct "Fury builds over Mersey Gateway toll as drivers anticipate getting fined" LOTS of comments.
Who cares about fines, when there is the thousandth chance to see pretty pictures and videos?
October 19 - MORE TRAFFIC EXPECTED IN WARRINGTON? SURELY NOT?
Warrington Guardian 18 Oct "Town’s traffic levels following opening of tolled bridge to form part of Western Link business case" comments.
October 19 - COUNCIL LOBBY
Last night, Scrap Mersey Tolls had a lobby of the Halton Council meeting where the councillors were informed that someone had on their behalf - closed the old bridge, opened the new bridge and started collecting tolls.
October 17 - OUR PROTEST MARCH
On Sunday 15th, Scrap Mersey Tolls had a big protest at Runcorn Town Hall followed by a march. The cameras were there from BBC and ITV, but as far as most of the local press were concerned, nothing happened. The Echo and the Weekly News decided to ignore it, though it did get mentioned in the World - World 17 Oct "Protestors submit 21,000 name petition to scrap 'Dick Turpin' bridge tolls" ITV 16 Oct "First commuters cross new Mersey Gateway as tolls row continues".
October 16 - COMPANY DARES TO COMPLAIN
World 16 Oct "Firm pays tolls to keep long-serving staff who live outside borough".
October 13 /14 - DISASTER DAY ARRIVES
The authorities rushed to close the old bridge at midnight on Friday 13th October and then open the new bridge and start tolling - illegally - with almost no notice, not that this phased the news media. Scrap Mersey Tolls gave various interviews to ITV, BBC and Radio City, but what appeared in the news media, including numerous construction magazines, were stories about the bridge and its opening. It was almost entirely the usual hype, written and orchestrated by Halton's spin machine, some of which was still being thrown at readers a week after the bridge opened -
New Civil Engineer 14 Oct "Video | Mersey Gateway Bridge opens" Click L'pool 14 Oct "Mersey Gateway opening marked with Fireworks spectacular" World 14 Oct "GALLERY: Firework and light display at opening of the new bridge"
BBC 14 Oct "Mersey Gateway: Fireworks launch for new £600m bridge"
Radio City 13 Oct "New Mersey Gateway Bridge finally opens tonight" BBC 12 Oct "'No reason' for Mersey Gateway tolls once £600m bill is paid" Warrington Guardian 13 Oct "DON'T FORGET: New bridge opens tonight" comments
Daily Post 13 Oct "Liverpool airport passengers from North Wales face bridge toll charge from tomorrow" Chester Standard 13 Oct "Sneak peak of the new £600m Mersey Gateway bridge before it opens at midnight" St Helens Star 13 Oct "Spectacular firework display to take place tonight to celebrate the opening of the new Mersey Gateway bridge".
In the 14 October item, the BBC quote Transport Secretary Chris Grayling saying - "When the [Mersey Gateway] bridge is paid for, the tolls go." Does he not know that Halton plan to keep them for at least 60 years?
The BBC on 13 Oct did have a short video clip "Mersey Gateway bridge tolls prompt anger", but it might as well have been edited by the PR people for the Turpin bridge. Even opponents of the tolls are only seen saying favourable things.
October 12 - DISASTER DAY ANNOUNCED - BUT NOT TO WORRY THERE WILL BE FIREWORKS
World 12 Oct "Historic logistics company gets sneak preview of new bridge" Chester Standard 12 Oct "Fireworks display marks opening of Mersey Gateway Bridge" Echo 12 Oct "The Mersey Gateway will open on Friday with spectacular firework display" comments BBC 11 Oct "Fireworks to mark £600m Mersey Gateway bridge opening"
Wirral Globe 11 Oct "Spectacular firework display planned for Mersey Gateway bridge opening this weekend" World 10 Oct "IT'S OFFICIAL: New Mersey Gateway bridge set to open on Saturday" LOTS of comments.
The World had the story on Tuesday long before the official announcement which came 24 hours later about 4pm on Wednesday the 11th. By leaking the story were they obeying or disobeying orders from the Council? And how come on the Wednesday did the Wirral Globe, sister paper of the World not know the opening date?
October 12 - NO ESCAPE
Echo 12 Oct "MP warns Liverpool airport passengers face being caught unawares by bridge tolls" comments.
October 11 - ERROR RECTIFIED?
On the 6th the Echo printed a story about some Halton councillors and officers getting payments from the 'Mersey Gateway Crossings Board' that did not have to be declared. In case any readers were scared by such a story, today the paper says what those people were paid - sort of. The paper just quotes figures from Halton Labour Party for after tax earnings, but usually when such figures are published they are shown gross and the generous pension contributions are also quoted. It would be reasonable to assume that the normal figures are about twice what the paper says. Echo 11 Oct "Bridge chiefs disclose board earnings".
October 12 - DECISION ON ANOTHER TOLLS SCAM DELAYED
The Mayor of London is planning to copy Halton Council by building a new river crossing and using that as an excuse for tolling the existing free crossing. DfT 11 Oct "Planning Act 2008: application for the proposed Silvertown Tunnel development consent order".
October 12 - "TOO MUCH TO CROSS THE MERSEY"
Socialist Party 11 Oct - article by Stephen Armstrong.
October 9 - MP POINTS OUT TOLLS DECEPTION
Warrington Guardian 9 Oct "No new signs to warn holidaymakers of new toll bridge" comments.
What is not mentioned is that it was crazy to ever have signs suggesting that drivers should take what was said to be a congested route.
There is also no mention of 'funelling' where the Councils and Government secretly agree that drivers will be deliberately directed towards the tolls.
October 9 - GIANT PLAY MAZE NEARLY READY
World 9 Oct "BRIDGE OPENING COUNTDOWN: New road system comes in when Mersey Gateway opens" comments.
October 9 - SOME MISTAKE, SURELY?
A member of Scrap Mersey Tolls has been looking at the 'Mersey Gateway Crossings Board' and trying to find out how much is being paid to councillors.Echo 6 Oct "Mersey Gateway bridge board tight-lipped over director payments" comments.
Will the Echo be rapped over the knuckles and told not to do this again?
Halton Labour Party later issued a statement saying that they did not know what all the fuss was about.
October 9 - 'TOLLS CHOICE' OR NOT
Warrington Guardian 5 Oct "Tolls choice".
October 9 - SCRAP'EM
A story from us about the tolls and 'fines' was ignored by the World. The Weekly News did use the story but then pulled it from their website and it was replaced by a story in the Echo which was mainly nonsense from the Council-
Echo 4 Oct "New Gateway and Silver Jubilee bridges fines "to be pumped back into their running"" comments
Thanks to the Warrington Guardian for publishing this story without the nonsense -
Guardian 4 Oct "Campaign group calling for tolls to be scrapped fears residents are ‘unknowingly walking into darker future’" lots of comments.
In the Guardian 'Toffeelad' says "Never heard of this group and I have been shouting against these tolls for years".
We have changed our name but under one name or another we have been shouting for years and years, but it is difficult to get heard if what you say is not published.
October 9 - MTUA LETTER
Despite the 'Tunnel' heading, this letter is about the Gateway and SJB tolls - Globe 4 Oct "Stop the Mersey Tunnel tolls" letter.
Sad that the only comment is from 'Croaker' who says "You need a hobby, haven't you realised after all this time that this is a lost cause?"
October 2 - INSIDE OUT?
Tonight's Inside Out North West had a segment about the new bridge and the opposition to the tolls. Considering the magnitude of the problem it could have been a longer segment, but beggars can't be choosers when most of the news media wants to avoid the issue.
September 30 - ANOTHER CALL TO ARMS, EXCEPT IN THIS CASE IT IS TO ALLOCATED YOUR IDENTITY NUMBER
World 30 Sep "Drivers urged to register as toll signs are erected on new bridge".
The World pass on that "If Halton residents don’t register, they will have to pay the full unregistered toll rate of £2 per journey and could face a penalty charge notice of up to £60." This is so misleading that it is little better than a lie. The penalty charge is for not paying, we are not yet in a Police state were you are compelled to register.
There are only three comments, but they all make good points, here are two -
"From the picture it looks as if you could walk across the river. Did someone take the plug out?
If the Council are that anxious for Halton residents to pay their £10 and claim their 'free' tolls, then why don't they send press gangs out to recruit the laggards who have not responded to the last 99 urgent calls?
Though the best bit of the story is that the opening has now been pushed back to mid October and could be delayed further if the weather is bad. Let's hope for a White October."
"I recommend you do not register until you have no choice. Your just wasting days from your allowance and will need to register again sooner.
Also the sticker is a danger as your a target for plate clones, dont use it.
You don't pay other tolls up front why bother in this case? They cannot stop you registering at your own leisure."
September 30 - BINGO
Echo 29 Sep "Fears number plates being stolen to avoid new Runcorn bridge tolls".
One comment says "This whole bridge saga is a joke .. Halton council are a joke .. it’s absolutely disgusting to charge people £2 to cross that bridge geting to work that means £4 per day .. and they give you a special deal £90 a month for unlimited crossing lol ?? When you’ve got a home to run and bills to pay and your only on £250 a week I think it’s disgusting .. £90 a month out your wages let alone road tax insurance and petrol ?? I sincerely hope the courts are hounded with non payment cases .. should be fun shouldn’t it ??"
The Echo as usual accompanied the story with more pictures from this "stunnng" bridge. Perhaps drivers should go to the Walker Art Gallery - the pictures there are free to look at!!
PS A Daily Telegraph story from 30 March 2016 - "One in 12 cars 'have cloned number plates'".
September 30 - MORE HYPE
World 29 Sep "Artist captures the new bridge in paintings and sketches" Chester Standard 26 Sep "Stunning new drone footage of Mersey Gateway Bridge as project nears completion" World 25 Sep "BRIDGE OPENING COUNTDOWN: New aerial video shows crossing nearing completion".
September 30 - ACCIDENT CAUSES CONGESTION
World 22 Sep "UPDATED 5.15pm: Lane reopens on Runcorn Widnes Bridge after two-vehicle crash" lot of comments.
This may have been a fairly minor collision. It is unfortunate that it seems to take so long to tend to any injured and clear the road.
September 30 - POSSIBLE NEW BRIDGE SCHEME TAKES A LITTLE STEP, MAYBE
Warrington Council have chosen their preferred route for the 'Western Link' -Warrington Guardian 21 Sep "Western Link: Flyover and new crossing over Mersey form part of revised £195m masterplan" lot of comments.
One comment says - "The Western link will only increase congestion in Warrington while the tolls remain on the Runcorn bridges - Its a disgrace that these bridges are tolled. Runcorn silver jubilee bridge has been free for fifty years now it is to be charged.The councils of Warrington, Halton and Liverpool should be ashamed." Hear, hear.
It is doubtful whether this or the long delayed scheme for a new crossing to relieve congestion at Bridgefoot will ever go ahead. The aim of the Tory Government and the Labour Councils is to maximise congestion so that drivers are forced to use the Gateway.
September 30 - ANOTHER TUNNEL - ANOTHER STORY
The plans for a £1.6 billion pound toll free tunnel under Stonehenge edge forward - Auto Express 13 Sep "Stonehenge tunnel part of new plans to tackle A303 traffic problems".
One comment says - "This infrastructure will cost £1.6 billion and will apparently be free to use, while the Welsh government is finally abolishing tolls to cross the River Severn. This is just as a relatively low cost bridge is to be opened to cross the Mersey at Runcorn which will cost a £2 toll each way. The existing bridge is to be simultaneously closed, so the most westerly free crossing of the Mersey will be the Thelwall viaduct (M6) which is east of Warrington. If the south west can have toll free roads to boost business and tourism, why must we in the so-called Northern Powerhouse have to pay?"
September 20 - YOU COULD NOT MAKE THIS UP
The Echo have another negative story - Echo 20 Sep "Bus services being axed in Runcorn because of bridge" comments.
September 20 - FAISAL RASHID MP FIGHTS ON
Warrington Guardian 20 Sep "Ministers decline offer to meet town’s politicians over tolls controversy – MP refuses to back down" comments.
One comment includes ".... At least he appears to be going the distance and TRYING to force the issue with government on this, by demanding a face to face meeting. And it doesn't look like he is giving up on this one easily which is to his credit and he should be congratulated on that. Bravo. What a contrast to his neighbouring fellow Labour MP.....".
September 20 - TOO LITTLE TIME FOR THE CONDEMNED
World 20 Sep "'Business not being given enough notice of Mersey Gateway opening date'" short letter.
We can not think of any other tax that has been brought into force at such short notice as five days. Are they just greedy or is there another motive?
They actually have to give at least 14 days notice. But the people behind this scehme can do what they like as they know that neither the Governmnet or anyone else is going to stop them.
September 20 - CLAIM THAT MERSEY GATEWAY ARE DEMOLISHING A BRIDGE
Warrington Guardian 20 Sep - "River worry" letter from a sailing club.
Why do they not just put a toll on it? It is a lot cheaper than the cost of demolition and it has a similar effect.
One comment says "I wouldn't call any river you can walk across at low tide navigable." Quite right, so I wonder who decided that they needed to build a high level bridge? Are they expecting supertankers to be heading towards Warrington?
September 20 - "WHO IS TELLING THE TRUTH?"
An interesting question. But the answer to 'Why do we have to pay for our new bridge when the one in Scotland is free to cross?" is that the Scots recognised that tolls were unfair and bad for the economy so they abolished them nine years ago.
In England the toll lobby rules the roost. They will push for almsot anything that does not move to be tolled, and along came a sucker in the shape of the Mersey region's politicians. World 20 Sep - "No charge" a short letter.
September 20 - BEYOND BELIEF
Mersey Gateway who have caused massive congestion over three years, who are routing bridge traffic through the centre of the borough and who have cut down about 100,000 mature trees and bushes have issued a press release about an environmental award won for "revitalising the saltmarsh and estuary around the Mersey Gateway project site".
They say that they are about to win another award for "excellence in stakeholder management in relation to ecological management." Given how little the Council cares about people, perhaps they are also in line for a Nobel Peace Prize!!!! World 18 Sep "Mersey Gateway environmental manager wins prestigious national award" a few comments.
September 20 - COUNTDOWN TO D FOR DISASTER DAY
World 18 Sep "BRIDGE OPENING COUNTDOWN: Traffic lights at key junction to be switched on" NO comments.
The Halton Council Leader (or his PR team) says "Thanks to motorists for your patience during this busy time."
Drivers whether in a car or a bus or a taxi or a van or a lorry (you get the idea) have had three years of traffic misery inflicted on them by this worse than useless Council. Drivers should be demanding more than a token 'thanks'. How's about ten years trapped in all the congestion we will get in Warrington and elsewhere once the tolls kick in?
September 20 - SOME DISABLED WILL NOT BE FULLY EXEMPT
This is one of the infrequent occassions when the toll censors have not managed to kill a negative story - Echo 18 Sep "Disabled blue badge holders face hefty costs for crossing new Runcorn bridge" some comments.
What is not mentioned in the story is the cause of the problem. At most tolls, the vehicle carrying the Blue Badge holder has to stop at a manned toll booth, so that they can check there is a Badge holder in the car. The 'Gateway' will not have toll booths, so there is no one to do the checking and they are limiting the free passes to only one vehicle. So a Blue Badge holder who gets transport in different vehicles will have to pay the tolls - unless of course they live in Halton were almost anyone (disabled or not) will be able to use the bridges for a tenner a year.
September 20 - THEY ARE QUEUING TO JOIN THE TOLL CLUB, BUT HOW MANY WILL BE PAYING THEM?
"50,000" join the club, but there are about 60,000 people in Halton who are eligible for free tolls if they register and pay their tenner. World 15 Sep "Milestone reached as 50,000 drivers register for tolls on Mersey Gateway" some comments.
Should not the Chief Exec of Haton and the boss of the Spanish / French toll collectors be holding up their identity parade numbers? And where are the councillors who agreed to all of this? Are they afraid to be identified with the tolls?
September 20 - MIKE AMESBURY MP AND BUSINESS GROUP JOIN IN
Chester Leader 13 Sep "MP's plea to heed warning of devastating economic impact of new Mersey bridge toll charges" some comments.
September 20 - TRADE UNIONS JOIN THE FIGHT
World 13 Sep "Unions call for bridge tolls to be scrapped 'immediately'" some comments.
The added comments include "Great for us lot living in Halton - we will have the choice of two bridges to ourselves for 10er a year because no one else will use it :)."
September 20 - FLIGHT OF FANCY
Someone from St Helens has a few ideas on how to get rid of Tunnel and bridge tolls. Some may be possible, but it demonstrates how much the local press is censored so that the writer does not know that Merseytravel are far from being a possible source of help - they are the biggest looter of the tolls World 13 Sep "Ways to make Mersey Gateway bridge toll-free" letter.
September 20 - MORE ON STRESS TESTING
On the 10th we pointed out that it was gross folly that the Silver Jubilee bridge will be closed for 12 months and that even when it reopens there will only be one lane in each direction for motor vehicles as the other half of the carriageway will be converted for use by cyclists.
By coincidence here is a reminder that accidents do and will happen Echo 12 Sep "Runcorn Bridge closed after three vehicle crash".
September 20 - KEEP AWAY! WAIT TILL WE CAN TOLL YOU!
World 12 Sep "Trespassers on Mersey Gateway warned of dangers and prosecution", the one added comments is "If you are not paying you aren't welcome"
Chester Standard 11 Sep "Warning that trespassers are causing a danger at new Mersey crossing construction site".
September 10 - STRESS TESTING
The Gateway people have been testing for an emergency on the new bridge. The real emergency is whoever it was that decided that the Silver Jubilee bridge will be closed for 12 months. Even when it reopens there will only be one lane in each direction for motor vehicles as the other half of the carriageway will be converted for use by cyclists.
If one or both carriageways on the new bridge have to be closed for any reason, then there will be gridlock overe a VERY wide area. It seems that the 'brains' behind this scheme either can not see the obvious or their aim is to caise pain and aggravation to drivers. Echo 8 Sep "Why car wrecks and 'bloodied casualties' were on the new Mersey Gateway bridge" Runcorn & Widnes World 8 Sep "Chemical spillage puts emergency crews to the test on the new Mersey Gateway" the only added comment is "This probably wouldnt happen in real life as large goods vehicles will avoid the bridge cos they cant afford the tolls".
Echo 8 Sep "Emergency exercise on Mersey Gateway bridge this morning" Runcorn & Widnes World 8 Sep "Major emergency planning exercise on Mersey Gateway bridge".
September 10 - FROM THE KEYSTONE COPS
It was suggested at the Public Inquiry in 2009 that if the Council went ahead with their plans to route most of the 'Gateway' traffic along the Central Expressway, then a new junction would be needed between 11 and 12 on the M56. The Council said that was rubbish, now eight years later their collaborators at 'Highways England' are saying that work on this will start in March 2020 - eleven years after objectors said that it would be needed. Perhaps we are being unfair to the Keystone Cops! Echo 7 Sep "Building work on new M56 junction to start in less than three years" Chester Chronicle 7 Sep "Building of new M56 junction in Cheshire to start in less than three years".
September 10 - ANOTHER REPORT ON THE CONTRAST WITH SCOTLAND
Chester Chronicle World 6 Sep "Criticism of Mersey Gateway tolls as Scots cross bigger and cheaper bridge for free" one comment.
September 10 - DEFINITELY NOT A FREEDOM MARCH
Someone from Halton Lea suggests that we "celebrate" the new toll bridge with a walk across as they did with the new Forth road bridge.
The one and only added comment says it all -
"The Scots had something to celebrate though - most using this bridge have nothing to celebrate but an enforced tax. The council are probably afraid of allowing a walk as it would turn into a protest march."
Runcorn & Widnes World 6 Sep "'Let residents walk over new bridge before it opens like in Scotland'" letter.
September 10 - TOO LITTLE AND TOO LATE? LET'S HOPE NOT
For a nice change the papers are reporting some of the views of those who do not want tolls = Runcorn & Widnes World 6 Sep "MPs bid to have bridge tolls scrapped" some comments.
September 10 - YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY THE MINISTRY OF TRUTH
From your very own toll gang, but they forgot to say "War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength". - Runcorn & Widnes World 5 Sep "EXPLAINED: Your Mersey Gateway questions answered" a lot of comments Warrington Guardian 5 Sep "EXPLAINED: Your Mersey Gateway questions answered" a lot more comments Middlewich Guardian 6 Sep (story has wrong date) "Here's what you need to know about the new Mersey Gateway tolls" again there are a lot of comments.
The Middlewich Guardian also has a bit on the survey where 58% say "No, I refuse to pay bridge tolls".
September 10 - YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED - WE HAVE WAYS OF MAKING YOU PAY
From your very own toll gang - Runcorn & Widnes World 5 Sep "Halton residents urged to register for free bridge tolls to avoid risking £60 fine" some comments.
September 10 - ONLY A THUMBS DOWN?
Amazingly there are about fifty people who do not mind the tolls! Winsford Guardian 5 Sep "Guardian readers give a resounding thumbs down to Mersey Gateway tolls".
September 4 - QUEEN OFFICIALLY OPENS NEW TOLL FREE BRIDGE
The Queen opening the new Forth bridge was one of the main items on the BBC news, but only the Echo has covered a press release contrasting Scotland with our area - Echo 4 Sep "Mersey bridge tolls slammed as Scots cross cheaper and bigger bridge for free" BBC 4 Sep "Queen opens new Queensferry Crossing" BBC / YouTube 4 Sep "Queensferry Crossing official opening ceremony" video.
September 1 - "BRIDGE OF DOOM AND GLOOM"
Runcorn & Widnes World 30 Aug "Bridge of doom and gloom" letter.
September 1 - GOVERNMENT TO SPEND £300 MILLION TO GIVE BOOST TO PEEL PORTS AND MERSEY GATEWAY TOLL
Highways England 31 Aug "£300 million road projects to improve journeys in Merseyside and Cheshire" Runcorn & Widnes World 31 Aug "New £60 million junction on M56 in Runcorn set to cut congestion".
August 31 - MP JOINS IN - ANOTHER REPORT
Northwich Guardian 31 Aug "Northwich MP Mike Amesbury pushes George Osborne to help oppose Mersey Gateway tolls for constituents".
August 31 - DAY AFTER
Courier 31 Aug "Day two on Queensferry Crossing, and things seem calmer".
August 30 - NEW TOLL FREE BRIDGE OPEN TO TRAFFIC BUT MERSEYSIDERS KEPT IN THE DARK
The new Forth road bridge - untolled - opened to traffic this morning. It is the UK's tallest bridge and the "longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world". But if you live in our region you will know nothing about it unless you watch the national TV channels. Here is some of the press coverage elsewhere-
BBC 30 Aug "New £1.35bn Queensferry Crossing opens to vehicles" STV 30 Aug "Queensferry Crossing: Figures behind major feat of engineering"
Engineer 30 Aug "Scotland’s Queensferry Crossing welcomes first traffic" Telegraph 30 Aug "Queensferry Crossing: queues, delays and the first broken down lorry on opening day"
Scotsman 30 Aug "Leader comment: Queensferry Crossing opening is landmark moment" Guardian 30 Aug "Queensferry Crossing across the Firth of Forth opens to traffic"
Evening Standard 30 Aug "Queensferry Crossing opening: £1.35bn Scottish bridge opens to first motorists" Courier 30 Aug "VIDEO: First journey across the new £1.35 billion Queensferry Crossing"
August 30 - MP JOINS IN
Chester Standard 30 Aug "MP's drive to provide free Mersey Gateway crossings for constituents".
We welcome anyone who opposes the tolls, but writing to George Osborne is as much use as writing to Santa Claus, because George is no longer part of the Government. And as a Labour MP Mike might be better spending his time trying to get his own party to support the scrapping of tolls, though there is not much chance of that as this tolls scheme was dreamt up when Labour was in Government in order to please the various North West Labour bosses and mandarins.
August 30 - KNOWSLEY COUNCIL TELLS CRONTON RESIDENTS TO GRIN AND BEAR IT
Liverpool Echo 30 Aug "Why one Widnes neighbourhood misses out on free Mersey Gateway crossings".
Knowsley Couincil shows both its ignorance and its contempt for the residents of Cronton and the rest of the borough by saying "Knowsley Council is supportive of the Mersey Gateway scheme due to the multiple benefits that it will bring to the region and beyond.".
August 30 - CUT OFF
Runcorn & Widnes World 30 Aug "Passengers fear they will be cut off when buses divert to Mersey Gateway as Silver Jubilee closes for repairs".
August 30 - DO NOT CARRRY ON CAMPING
Runcorn & Widnes World 30 Aug "A heavy toll for camper van drivers" letter.
August 29 - LIGHTS ON NEW TOLL FREE BRIDGE
BBC 29 Aug "Queensferry Crossing lit up ahead of opening" Scotsman 29 Aug "Queensferry Crossing illuminated to mark handover of bridge".
August 28 - PROGRESS ON ANOTHER TOLL FREE BRIDGE
Russia is building a twelve mile road and rail bridge linking Crimea to Russia. One of two arches to allow shipping to pass under is being floated into place this week. There will be no tolls when the bridge opens in 2018 - BBC 28 Aug "Russia's controversial Crimea bridge gets giant arch" RT 27 Aug "Russia installs Crimea bridge railway arch in unique operation".
August 28 - TOLL FREE BRIDGE TO OPEN THIS WEEK
BBC 27 Aug "Everything you need to know about the Queensferry Crossing" BBC 27 Aug "Engineers proud of 'state-of-the-art' bridge" BBC 27 Aug "Queensferry Crossing: The UK's tallest bridge" BBC 27 Aug "Queensferry crossing 'could last 150 years'".
August 26 - DISASTER DAY LOOMS
The bridge trolls have announced that the Mersey Gateway will open in about three weeks. The local news media as usual repeat the PR handouts and think that this is a cause for celebration instead of the major blow that it really is. The Echo even have a link to the bridge trolls website to make it easier for people to register to be fleeced.
The real situation is in one of the comments added to the Echo story - "To "celebrate" the opening of a bridge that now means there is almost NO WAY into Liverpool without paying a toll just speaks volumes of the cretins who have decided to put a Liverpool tax on anyone wanting to drive into the region." -
Echo 25 Aug "Mersey Gateway could open 'within weeks'" comments
Runcorn & Widnes World 25 Aug "Toll registration expected to rocket as Mersey Gateway could open in weeks" Runcorn & Widnes World 25 Aug "Fireworks display on Mersey Gateway will herald opening of new bridge"
Wirral Globe 25 Aug "REVEALED: Mersey Gateway could open as early as mid-September" comments Northwich Guardian 25 Aug "REVEALED: Mersey Gateway could open as early as mid-September" comments.
As usual these stories are full of nonsense from the Council like "the project is on track ahead of time and under budget". The only ones who gain from the bridge being under budget are the private consortium building the bridge. The ones that will suffer if the scheme is ahead of time are drivers who will have to start paying tolls sooner rather than later.
And if the bridge does open in three weeks will they have removed the temporary bridge? One of the crazy features of this scheme is that the river is so easy to bridge that two years ago in a matter of weeks they built a bridge to help them build the totally over the top 'Gateway'. It seems that their aim was to waste as much money as possible in order to try and justify having to toll it.
August 25 - NEVER KNOWINGLY OVERSOLD
Runcorn & Widnes World 23 Aug "Sold down the river regarding bridge tolls" anonymous letter.
August 25 - DISINFORMATION CENTRE CLOSES
Runcorn & Widnes World 23 Aug "Mersey Gateway information centre closes to make way for new shop".
August 25 - SPINNING AWAY
Runcorn & Widnes World 16 Aug "Bridge building team shortlisted for two prestigious national biodiversity awards" Middlewich Guardian 11 Aug "IN PICTURES: First crossing over the new Mersey Gateway bridge" comments.
August 14 - PROTEST DAY
The rain and the usual fatalistic apathy meant that the protest at the Widnes to Runcorn bridge organised by Karen Forde of 'Scrap Mersey Tolls' had a low turnout. But it was a BIG SUCCESS in terms of publicity as the protest was featured on local radio stations and was the lead item on the North West news on BBC and ITV and on the Made in Liverpool channel. Thanks to all those from Runcorn, Widnes and further afield who made all this publicity possible by joining the protest.
ITV 14 Aug "Mersey Gateway Bridge protest to take place this morning" Runcorn & Widnes World 14 Aug "Businesses and residents stage protest over bridge tolls" L'pool Echo 14 Aug "Protest taking place against tolls on the new Mersey Gateway bridge" L'pool Echo 14 Aug "Protest held in Widnes opposing tolls on Halton's river crossings" Runcorn & Widnes World 14 Aug "Protestors want bridge tolls scrapped".
As with all these stories, the authorities and their PR firms spout a load of nonsense to fool many of the public.
They say that "The case for a toll-free crossing has been made to Government on a number of occasions over the last 10 years."
That is most unlikely to be so as the Council gave up any attempt to get a toll free bridge by the end of 2004 - over twelve years ago, and there are some indications that even before then they were just going through the motions of having a toll free bridge.
They say that "The new bridge and improved road infrastructure will bring numerous benefits to both personal and business users. Users will see less congestion and a reduction in journey times."
There will probably be less congestion but one reason for that is that there will be less traffic as the official forecasts are that the tolls will deter traffic and there will be less vehicles crossing the river between Widnes and Runcorn than there is now. The traffic that is crossing the river may have quicker journeys but it will come at a high cost unless you are a resident of Halton.
They say that "The free flow tolling system will make everybody’s journey across the river and through Halton quicker, easier and more reliable." The scheme as approved in 2009 included toll booths, I do not know why they changed it to a 'cashless' system but that will have severe implications for many drivers, particularly visitors to the area as they will risk being chased for fines of up to £60 -
The Dartford Crossings went cashless at the end of November 2014 and the fines there are running at over one million pounds a week with many of the fines being disputed by drivers. Drivers who end up being fined will not think that the new system is "quicker, easier and more reliable". People who are visiting the area for family, leisure, business or shopping who are somehow fined are most unlikely to want to come back.
We sent a press release out before the protest with various facts. As usual most of this was ignored because the press either do not have the space or may think that people will be confused by facts, particularly as the authorities may whisper to them that the facts are not facts. This is what we told the press -
A protest against the new tolls on the Mersey is being held today at the Widnes end of the Silver Jubilee bridge from 7.30 AM to 9.30 AM.
The protest has been organised by Karen Forde, a member of the "Scrap Mersey Tolls" group who are opposed to all tolls on the Mersey.
It is expected that some members of the Mersey Tunnels Users Association will join in the protest.
John McGoldrick a spokesman for the MTUA which is part of the National Alliance Against Tolls said -
"The Tunnel Users have been taking an active interest in this scheme since 2003, as a new crossing and whether it was tolled or not would obviously have an impact on the Mersey Tunnels. On behalf of the NAAT I was one of the main objectors at the Public Inquiry into the scheme in 2009. It is one of the daftest schemes that the politicians have ever come up with.
This will be the first time in the UK that tolls will have been added to an existing bridge. Elsewhere in Britain this would have caused a political revolt, but in this area the intensive PR campaign over the last ten years has meant that many people have no idea of what is going on and have been duped by constant stories about an 'iconic' bridge.
The tolls will not be cheap, the cash toll for cars will be two pounds each way. That will make it the third highest toll for cars in Britain, after the Dartford and Severn crossing tolls. And the Government has announced that the Severn tolls will be removed by the end of 2018, so the Mersey bridge car tolls will then be the second highest in Britain.
Though the two pound toll for cars may not be the worst of it as instead of having toll booths, the bridges will have cashless tolls where traffic is monitored by cameras. This system has been in operation at the Dartford crossing since December 2014 and the result for drivers has been horrendous. Many vehicles are recorded as not paying the tolls and the drivers are fined. The fines at Dartford amount to over £50 million a year. The combination of tolls and risk of fines will make the Mersey from Liverpool to Halton a barrier that many drivers will avoid. This will have a knock on effect on businesses. The authorities have claimed that the new bridge will benefit the economy, but it is more likely that firms will shun the area because of the effect that tolls will have on their deliveries, their workforce and their potential customers.
It was only at the end of 2004 that the cat was let out of the bag and it was revealed that there would be tolls on the bridges. The main reason that was given was that the choice was either tolled bridges or no new bridge. The decision to toll the bridges did not speed things up, nearly ten years went by before construction started on the new bridge and it is not due to open till this Autumn. The decision to have tolls contrasts with what has happened elsewhere, including Scotland where next month the Queen is to open a major new bridge across the Forth - there will be no tolls.
In January 2004 we were told by the engineers at the Council that their bridge scheme was estimated to cost just over £200 million, would have no tolls and if given Government approval would be open by 2008. You might think that a privately financed toll scheme must at least have saved the taxpayer some of that money. But the sum of £200 million is minute compared with the money that the Government are putting into this 'privately financed' tolled bridge. The Government are giving nearly £600 million in grants for the scheme, and they are also providing various guarantees without which the private consortium would not have gone ahead with the scheme. As a result of these guarantees the Department of Transport have had to provide in their accounts for a 'contingent liability' in case something goes wrong with the scheme. In the accounts just published for the year to 31 March 2017, the liability is £1,546 million, this sum is on top of the £600 million of grants.
A Liverpool University study in 1993 showed that the best option for the local economy was to build a bridge west of the existing bridge. The new bridge would have run south from the M57 and Knowsley Expressway over the river to a new junction on the M56 west of Frodsham. As well as having the greatest economic benefits, a bridge to the west of the existing bridge would have largely avoided populated areas. The authorities instead decided to build the new bridge east of the existing bridge with the approaches going through the heart of Widnes and Runcorn. This has caused major disruption during the construction of the bridge and when it opens there will be increased pollution in residential areas.
Perhaps daftest of all is that the authorities said that a new bridge was needed because of the volume of traffic. But they also said (a bit more quietly) that there would actually be less traffic as the tolls will cause a significant number of drivers to take alternative routes, adding to congestion in Warrington and elsewhere. It seems that the only ones to gain from this bridge will be the firms building it and running the toll collection. For the people and businesses of this area, this scheme will be far worse than if the politicians had sat on their hands and done nothing."
August 11 - TOLLS PROTEST
There is to be a protest against the tolls on Monday 14 August 2017 from 7.30am To 9.30am. the protest will be at the Widnes end of the SJB, near Irwell Street, West Bank WA8 0EP.
Runcorn & Widnes World 2 Aug "Protest organised to persuade Government to scrap bridge tolls".
August 11 - CAMPER VAN TOLL
You will have to pay tolls for a camper van, even if you live in Halton. Runcorn & Widnes World 9 Aug "Camper van toll disgust".
August 11 - CRANES GO OVER 'ICON'
Apparently the bridge has been hidden by all the paraphenalia used to construct it, but now all will be revealed - Runcorn & Widnes World 9 Aug "Giant cranes dismantled as iconic Mersey Gateway shape is unveiled".
August 11 - BRIDGE TROLLS DENY THAT TRAFFIC WILL DIVERT AWAY FROM TOLLS
Warrington Guardian 8 Aug "Western Link 'rat run' fears played down by Mersey Gateway chiefs".
August 6 - WILL THE REAL CRIMINAL SCAM PLEASE STAND UP
The bridge trolls are complaining that they have competition - BBC 5 Aug "Mersey Gateway Bridge: Warning over scam toll website" Echo 7 Aug "Warning as fake Mersey Gateway toll website targets motorists" Runcorn & Widnes World 8 Aug "Drivers warned of fake bridge toll discount website".
August 6 - HYPOCRITES
We have noticed that an 'Early Day Motion' was tabled in the Commons by a Labour MP on 12 July Parliament - "Early day motion 171 - MERSEY GATEWAY AND JUBILEE BRIDGE".
The motion ends " .. calls on the Government to introduce a free tolling scheme at no cost to the local authorities concerned, including Halton, residents in Cheshire West and Chester, Merseyside and Warrington for those who need to use the crossings for work, education or to attend medical appointments as a matter of urgency.". So far the motion has been signed by 14 Labour MPs and two others.
The 'primary sponsor' of the motion is George Howarth who was notorious for his backing of Merseytravel increasing and taking Tunnels tolls. Another sponsor is Louise Ellman who is a dedicated fan of tolls. There can be little doubt that many of the MPs who have signed this motion did so with crossed fingers as they must be hoping that the Government ignores their motion.
August 6 - MP OPPOSES TOLLS
The new MP for Weaver Vale says he wants the tolls on the Gateway and SJB scrapped, but will any of his Labour colleagues support him? Chester Chronicle 5 Aug "MP pledges to fight for Mersey Gateway bridge tolls to be scrapped".
August 6 - ANOTHER NEW UNTOLLED BRIDGE NEARLY COMPLETE
BBC 4 August "Queen to open new bridge across the Firth of Forth".
August 6 - NEW UNTOLLED BRIDGE WITH NOVEL DESIGN
RT 4 August "Futuristic Moscow bridge recognized as international masterpiece".
Russia does not have tolls for cars, the only vehicles paying tolls are heavy trucks on Russia's equivalent of the motorways.
August 6 - THE SPIN GOES ON
Echo 2 Aug "Mersey Gateway bridge deck completed" Echo 31 July "Workers will walk across new Mersey Gateway bridge within days".
August 6 - REPEATED CALL FOR DRIVERS TO COME FORWARD FOR BRANDING
Echo 31 July "Drivers from across Halton and beyond urged to sign up for bridge tolls discounts".
July 30 - CALL FOR DRIVERS TO COME FORWARD FOR BRANDING
Runcorn & Widnes World 28 July "Thousands of people register for Mersey Gateway tolls in first week" Chester Chronicle 26 July "This is how Mersey Gateway tolls will be paid if you don't have an account".
July 30 - MORE PAIN
Echo 26 July "Residents complain about 'deafening' noise from bridge demolition work in Widnes" Runcorn & Widnes World 25 July "Angry residents say work on new Mersey Gateway bridge is keeping them awake at night".
July 30 - NEW PETITION
Echo 26 July "Petition launched in bid to scrap bridge tolls".
The Petition - Change.org "Scrap the tolls on the new Mersey Gateway Bridge in Halton Cheshire!"
July 30 - IMMORAL
Runcorn & Widnes World 25 July "Cronton pensioner who discovered he isn’t eligible for free bridge crossings slams ‘immoral’ system".
July 24 - WARRINGTON MP OPPOSES TOLLS
Runcorn & Widnes World 24 July "MPs in neighbouring areas urge ministers to scrap Mersey Gateway Bridge tolls" Runcorn & Widnes World 22 July "MP writes to transport minister calling for Mersey Gateway Bridge tolls to be scrapped".
The first story has a comment (mickow99) which says "People will wake up to the fact we,ve been conned all the way to the tolls. Why do we need a super chasm straddling bridge which looks very pretty,but costs a fortune.Why build at the widest point of the river east of the existing bridge.A quarter of a mile further east and the river is only about fifty foot wide.A pretty little bridge would have been quite sufficient." This comment highlights one of the great mysteries of this crazy scheme. The best route for a new Mersey crossing was west of the existing SJB crossing, it would have linked the Knowsley Expressway to a new junction 13 on the M56. Instead they decided to route the bridge approaches through the heart of Widnes and Runcorn and to build a massive bridge over the Mersey mud.
July 24 - MORE PAIN
Runcorn & Widnes World 24 July "Disused road bridge in Widnes set to be demolished with diversions in place".
July 24 - COME FORWARD FOR BRANDING
Runcorn & Widnes World 19 July "More than 3,000 drivers register for bridge tolls on first day" Chester Chronicle 19 July "Registration opens for Mersey Gateway toll system" Runcorn & Widnes World 18 July "Drivers registering online for free bridge tolls hit technical snags" BBC 18 July "Mersey Gateway: Registration opens for toll bridge" video Runcorn & Widnes World 17 July "Drivers can now register for tolling system on Mersey Gateway and Silver Jubilee bridges" ITV 17 July "Registration opens for new Mersey Crossing toll system".
July 16 - MORE SPIN
Echo 16 July "Incredible new pictures show progress of £600m Mersey Gateway bridge".
Lucky for the PR people that people who read their puff pieces in the printed paper do not see the negative online comments.
July 16 - ROYALS TO SHARE IN LOOT FROM NEW BRIDGE
It seems that the Queen owns the Mersey, and the bridge trolls are having to give her money for building the new bridge - Echo 9 July "Here are the Mersey properties owned by the Queen".
July 8 - NEW WARRINGTON MP SAYS SCRAP TOLLS
Warrington Guardian 6 July "MP calls for Government to fulfil 'promise' and scrap Mersey Gateway Bridge tolls in Commons" Warrington Guardian 30 June "MP Faisal Rashid vows to ‘make constituents proud’ in maiden speech in Parliament".
July 8 - "ROLL UP, ROLL UP" TO BE BRANDED ON THE FOREHEAD
Echo 3 July "Tolling registration for Mersey Gateway opening later this month" Chester Chronicle 7 July "Registration for the Mersey Gateway toll system opens soon" Warrington Guardian 3 July "All you need to know: Registration for tolling on Mersey Gateway and Silver Jubilee bridges open" Runcorn & Widnes World 3 July "TOLLING: All you need to know to apply for free tolls and discounts to cross the new Mersey Gateway".
As you may notice with this and a lot of other reports, there are almost identical stories in all the papers. The reason is that the stories are provided by the PR people and the local news media seem to be happy to give the bridge trolls free publicity.
July 8 - MORE PAIN
Runcorn & Widnes World 2 July "Weekend road closures on approach roads to Mersey Gateway".
July 8 - TORY MP LEAVES THE STAGE
Warrington Guardian July "Being MP was a privilege but you have to be clear about knowing when the time is right to move on - David Mowat".
The stort says that both Labour and the Tories thought that the Government reneging on its 2015 promise of no tolls was not an issue. This might indicate that voters were either stupid or badly informed. Or given the election result is it Labour and the Tories who are both stupid and badly informed?
June 30 - MORE SPIN
Runcorn & Widnes World 28 June "Historic milestone as engineers bridge the gap on Mersey Gateway" Runcorn & Widnes World 22 June "Giant Mersey Gateway bridge building machine reaches epic milestone".
June 30 - KEEPING GOOD COMPANY
Not sure who is backing who, but Warrington's two Labour MPs call for tolls to be scrapped and we join in - Warrington Guardian 27 June "National campaign group and MPs urge Government to scrap Mersey Gateway Bridge tolls" comments.
June 30 - NOT LAUGHING GAS
Echo 22 June "Mersey Gateway teams were warned of mustard gas and uranium risk during bridge construction".
It was known at the 2009 Public Inquiry that the chosen route for the new bridge might go over contaminated land. Strange that it is being reported when the bridge is nearly complete and it is too late for anyone to have done anything to get a safer route.
June 9 - GENERAL ELECTION WIN FOR JEREMY CORBYN
Locally, Labour won two seats from the Tories - Weaver Vale (which includes part of Runcorn) and Warrington South. These two scalps could be because the Tory government reneged on the 2015 election promises of no tolls for those areas. Overall the result probably makes little difference to the toll plans as local Labour politicians have collaborated with the Tories over the tolls rip off.
June 9 - 'TOLL TRUTHS'
Some of the facts - from us of course - about the Gateway scam that rarely get into the press - Warrington Guardian 8 June Letter.
June 9 - "RIP-OFF"
Echo 5 June "Claims new Mersey Gateway is a £500m rip-off".
Echo shareholders should be complaining if the paper is not getting a commission from Halton, as every news story is headed by a video of the 'luverly' new bridge.
The Gateway people tell the Echo that "The two schemes are vastly different in terms of the financing, construction and delivery and therefore it is not appropriate to compare them." For once they are probably correct to a large extent. They are both major cable stayed bridges over an estuary but otherwise they are different, not least because the Forth is a far harder river to bridge than the mill pond where they are constructing the Gateway bridge.
One similarity is that both are poor schemes. The Mersey Gateway bridge will reduce traffic crossing the river in Halton - traffic that has to pay the tolls will divert elsewhere.
The Queensferry crossing is equally daft as the bridge is probably not needed - it was conceived when they had tolls and sold on the claim that the existing bridge was so badly rusted that they might have to close it.
The biggest difference, of course, is that there will be no tolls to cross the Queensferry bridge - even if you are not a resident of Halton!
June 9 - MORE SPIN
Runcorn & Widnes World 6 June "Volunteers who help 'tell the story' of Mersey Gateway Project recognised".
June 9 - GENERAL ELECTION - RUNNERS IN HALTON
Only two candidates opposed the tolls - the UKIP candidate and Vic Turton who is part of Halton against Tolls - World 7 June "Everything you need to know about why Halton's candidates are standing ahead of tomorrow's election".
Unfortunately both candidates were squeezed out by the other parties who will do nothing to lift the tolls.
June 3 - GENERAL ELECTION - WARRINGTON SOUTH SPAT
Warrington Guardian 26 May "Fresh political row erupts over Mersey Gateway Bridge tolls two weeks before election".
May 28 - GENERAL ELECTION - RUNNERS IN HALTON
Echo 26 May "Halton constituency candidates for General Election 2017".
May - BRIDGE OF SANDS
Runcorn & Widnes World 23 May "Remedial work on Ditton junction flyover 'was planned', say Mersey Gateway bridge builders".
May 6 - MORE OUCH FROM THE HALTON INQUISITION
Runcorn & Widnes World 23 May "Fury over traffic delays as roadworks were at a standstill".
May 19 - GENERAL ELECTION - PROMISES THAT SEVERN TOLLS WILL BE SCRAPPED
The Conservatives have issued a press release in which Teresa May says that if reelected her Government would remove the tolls on the Severn Crossing in 2018. She also said: “By abolishing tolls for 25 million annual journeys between two nations we will strengthen the links b28tween communities .. and .. drive economic growth right across the country helping key economic centres in Cardiff, Bath, Bristol and Newport.”
This means that now almost all the parties (Labour, Tories, UKIP and Lib Dems) say that they would scrap the Severn tolls.
BBC 16 May "Severn tolls: Conservative election pledge to scrap charges" comments Motoring Research 16 May "What does the Labour manifesto mean for motorists?" Wales Online 16 May "Theresa May pledges to abolish tolls on Severn Crossings between Wales and England" comments.
There is more on this story on our Mersey Tunnel News page.
May 19 - 'BRIDGE TOLL CHARGES ARE A DISGRACE’
World 14 May letter.
May 19 - MORE SPIN - AND THEY ARE REALLY SCRAPING THE BARREL
We wonder how much drivers are paying for the Gateway PR people to come up with these silly stories? World 19 May "Ancient bones of a red deer discovered during Mersey Gateway excavation" North West Place 18 May "Ancient bones discovered on Mersey Gateway dig" Runcorn World 6 May "Win a guided tour of bridge building site" Runcorn World 15 May "Feat of engineering completes another Mersey Gateway milestone".
May 19 - TROLLS COMPLAIN ABOUT PROPOSAL TO SHARE THE TOLLS TAG WAVE BAND
Smart Highways 17 May "ITS (UK) responds to Ofcom consultation on 5.8GHz".
May 19 - TAXI FARE REBATE PLAN SCRAPPED
Echo 17 May "Proposed scheme for Halton residents to claim back Mersey Gateway taxi tolls shelved".
May 19 - MYSTERY PROTEST
Echo 8 May "Mystery daredevil flies Union Flag from top of Runcorn-Widnes bridge".
May 9 - GOVERNMENT PIGGYBANK
In April, the Public Finance magazine published a story about the "UK Guarantee Scheme" under which the Government provides guarantees to lenders for schemes that might not otherwise go ahead. In effect the Government guarantees that the banks and other lenders can't lose money even if the scheme is a dud. In March 2014 the Mersey Gateway bridge was given one of the biggest guarantees under the scheme - 257 million pounds.
Following sight of the above story we have now found that in January 2015, the National Audit Office published a report - UK Guarantees scheme for infrastructure (pdf) which includes the financing of the Mersey Gateway scheme. The report has 31 refernces to the scheme, here are some of them -
1.9 The Treasury guaranteed bonds issued as part of the financing for the Mersey Gateway Bridge ... using the same concept as monoline insurance. Investors in these bonds benefit from a stronger level of creditor protection than is available from commercial guarantors (in return for a smaller margin) because it is backed by the UK sovereign credit strength).
Figure 7 Application of eligibility criteria (for Mersey Gateway) - "Dependent on guarantee to proceed and not otherwise financeable within a reasonable timeframe".
2.11 The Mersey Gateway Bridge. The Treasury’s analysis stated: “no additional value
for money (VfM) test is necessary for the UK guarantee facility beyond the one that
has already been carried out by Halton Borough Council for the project as a whole”.
The Treasury also provided a letter of comfort for the Department for Transport’s
separate guarantee of toll revenues.26
Note 26 We previously reported on the decision to use PFI for the Mersey Gateway Bridge in: Comptroller and Auditor General, Review of the VfM assessment process for PFI, Briefing for House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, October 2013. Further information on the revenue guarantees can be found in the Department for Transport
Annual Report and Accounts (2013-14)."
3.12 Scheme-level risk-
The Treasury has set an overall limit of £40 billion of guaranteed debt, although
this excludes interest payments, which can be significant. For example, on the 29-year
£257 million Mersey Gateway bond, the total cash interest is £241 million (before taking account of recovery)..."
3.13 Scheme-level risk-
"...the Treasury was prepared to guarantee 100% of the debt finance
on the Mersey Gateway project).33"
Note 33 "The project sponsor, Halton Borough Council, turned this offer down on the basis that it preferred to make sure that 50% of the debt finance came from private sector sources, whose funds would be at risk, with the aim of bringing greater commercial discipline to the project."
Appendix Four - Summary details-
1 The Mersey Gateway Bridge is a new 6-lane toll bridge between Runcorn and
Widnes with construction costs of some £470 million and is expected to open in 2017.
The bridge was commissioned by Halton Borough Council to relieve congestion on
the existing Silver Jubilee Crossing, which will also be tolled as part of the project.
When the bridge is completed and operational, toll revenues will be collected on behalf of Halton Borough and the Council will then pay for the bridge on an availability and performance basis, subject to capped deductions for failure to maintain minimum journey times. The £600 million contract to design, build, finance and operate the bridge will run until 2044. The details of the guarantee are outlined overleaf.
2 HM Treasury guaranteed the Merseylink bond which was publicly marketed via
the Irish Stock Exchange with a minimum subscription of £100,000. The auction was
2.8 times oversubscribed
On page 58 of the NAO report there are "Details of the Mersey Gateway Guarantee" which goes into more detail than we have quoted above.
The NAO report mentions Review of the VFM assessment process for PFI (pdf) which includes mention of the Mersey Gateway scheme-
Figure 4 is "the results of the VFM quantitative tool, showing the present value cost of PFI and the public sector comparator for six projects".
Normally these figures are fiddled by the Government and authorities to show PFI as the cheaper option as that way it is more likely to be approved and more likely to get Government help. Amazingly for the Gateway sceme, the Public sector comparator is shown to be cheaper, but according Halton decided to use PFI anyway - Note 3 "This project used PFI because the authority considered there to be an additional benefit to net from the cost of the PFI option."
Figure 6 shows how much cheaper the Gateway scheme would have been if it was not PFI. On the VFM quantiative tool basis PFI was £17.6 million more expensive. "Using a public sector comparator with borrowing" it was £106.3 million more expensive and "using a discount rate of 4.5 per cent" it was £176.1 million more expensive.
Figure 9 shows "The net benefit (cost) of PFI relative to public sector comparator in a) the VFM quantitative tool and b) the shadow bid model". The VFM quantitative tool figure gives the £17.6 million extra cost of PFI. The shadow bid model which also takes into account corporation tax shows PFI costing an extra £149.0 million.
The NAO report also mentions Department for Transport Annual Report
and Accounts 2013-14 (pdf) which includes mention of the Mersey Gateway scheme-
4.9 Contingent liabilities -
A new contingent liability (£1.7 billion) has been created through a commitment made by the Department to fund any shortfall of toll revenue from the Mersey Gateway Bridge to meet Halton’s financial obligations under the Demand Management Participation Agreement. Halton is a small authority with limited resources. The Department’s commitment to fund this Additional Availability Support Grant is in turn guaranteed by a comfort letter from Infrastructure UK (IUK)/HM Treasury under the Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Act 2012. Although legally this guarantee has come from IUK/HM Treasury, the contingent liability in substance lies with the Department. The additional support can either be given as a grant or loan at the Department’s discretion."
17.1 Contingent liabilities disclosed under IAS 37-
Commitment by the Department to fund any shortfall of toll revenue from the
Mersey Gateway Bridge to meet Halton Council's financial obligations under the Demand Management Participation Agreement - £1,663m.
May 6 - 'POLITICAL ROW'
Runcorn & Widnes World 4 May "Political row erupts over tolls at Mersey crossings - two years on from George Osborne's broken promise".
May 6 - PETITION TOTAL
Kenny Harper's petition to "Remove all tolls from the River Mersey" closed on the 3rd because of the dissolution of Parliament. It had got 5,543 signatures. The full text of the petition was-
"The River Mersey will end up with 2 bridges and x2 tunnels that will be tolled in the next 12 months. The cost of the build, upkeep and repair of these huge national infrastructures have been given to the people of Merseyside. Who pays for the upkeep of the bridges & tunnels of The River Thames.
The bridges & tunnels are part of the national infrastructure and should not be the responsibility of the people of Merseyside in the same way the bridge to Skye is not theirs to pay for, the Bridges of The Thames are not purely for the people of London.
there are many roads, bridges & tunnels that are paid for nationally including the upkeep, I feel the same should be done on Merseyside."
May 6 - MAYORAL ELECTION
John McGoldrick, one of our spokesmen, did a video interview on the 2nd for Made in Liverpool about the election, where he spoke about the Gateway scheme and what a disaster it was for the region.
May 6 - MORE ON THE PAIN
Runcorn & Widnes World 29 April "Dreading six months of traffic delays" letter.
April 30 - UKIP PROTEST
Yesterday UKIP had an anti tolls protest at the SJB approach in Widnes. About a dozen people turned up. They had lots of support from passing drivers who honked their horns. The news media seem to have ignored the protest, they are presumably waiting for their next 'news story' written by the Gateway trolls.
PS The printed edition of the News on 3 May covered the protest - story as a pdf.
April 30 - MORE PAIN
Echo 28 April "Road users left FUMING after key route shuts for good" some comments Comments include "These hapless planners have decimated both Runcorn and Widnes, the perfectly good roads ripped up for profit."
Runcorn & Widnes World 28 April "Drivers incensed over delays crossing Runcorn Widnes bridge following closure of Watkinson Way".
April 25 - TROLLS TURN GREEN
Macquarie bank, based in the Land of Oz, who are one of the world's biggest trolls, are buying the 'Green Investment Bank' from the UK Government. The banksters did own the M6 Toll road and reportedly have a slice of the Mersey Gateway BBC 20 April "Green Investment Bank sold to Australian firm Macquarie" Renewable Energy Magazine 20 April "Australian banking group acquisition of UK Green Investment Bank proceeds despite severe criticism".
April 25 - SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
Warrington Guarian 20 April "Road chaos" letter.
April 25 - MORE SPIN
Runcorn & Widnes World 21 April "Bridge builder volunteers give nursery a makeover".
April 21 - PROTEST
UKIP are holding an anti tolls protest on Saturday 29th April from 10 am - 12 noon. It will be on the Widnes side of the bridge - by Irwell Street, West Bank, Widnes. WA8 0D2.
April 21 - MORE SPIN
Chester Chronicle 19 April "Mersey Gateway's giant North Approach Viaduct is complete" Echo 15 April "Stunning drone footage shows incredible early morning view of Mersey Gateway bridge building" Runcorn & Widnes World 16 April "Giant viaduct set to carry 60,000 vehicles a day across new Mersey Gateway is finished".
The Runcorn & Widnes World story on the 16th has as one comment "Could anybody tell me why we need a massive chasm type suspension bridge when a road on stilts, or a causeway, would have sufficed.The waters only about 8 foot deep when the tide is in."
One answer is "If it had been built on stilts then it would have meant that many more than the 3 existing piers would have had to be built in the Mersey estuary, due to environmentalists, green organisations and European directives this was not permitted as it would have drastically altered the ebb & flow of the waters flow impacting wildlife etc."
They have of course already built a temporary trestle bridge and it is arguable that a permanent girder bridge with small piers (such as the Tay road bridge) would have had no more adverse impact on tides than will be caused by the massive piers for this cable stay bridge. So the real answer as to why they are building a bridge which is several times more expensive than a trestle bridge is not to protect wild birds, it is to show that the establishment can do what they like no matter how stupid it is and the people will aceept it.
April 21 - MORE ON PAIN
Runcorn & Widnes World 19 April "'Get ready for six-months of traffic chaos'" Letter.
April 21 - GENERAL ELECTION
Runcorn & Widnes World 19 April "Snap general election called for June 8".
It is not surprising that there is no mention of tolls as an issue. What is surprising is that based on the online poll there are more Tories than Labour supporters.
April 14 - UPDATE ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE NEW FORTH BRIDGE
The new untolled bridge was originally due to open by about now, but there have been delays partly due to the weather and the bridge is not likely to open till August. Here are the latest pictures - Scotsman Apr 6 "Photographer shares amazing pictures of Queensferry Crossing".
April 14 - MORE PAIN
Echo 13 April "Major road closure in Widnes expected to add time to motorists' journeys" Echo 11 April "Major roadworks scheduled in Widnes for Mersey Gateway Project" Runcorn & Widnes World 10 April "Major road in Widnes - Watkinson Way to close permanently for Mersey Gateway" Runcorn & Widnes World 4 April "Diversions as road closures at Ditton junction pave way for new bridge".
April 14 - MORE SPIN
Runcorn & Widnes World 11 April "See what the new Mersey Gateway bridge looks like - from the sky" Echo 11 April "Spectacular drone footage shows Mersey Gateway bridge from above" Runcorn & Widnes World 6 April "Iconic Mersey Gateway takes shape" - one comment is "That bridge is amazing not only are we paying for it are kids grand kids and so on ..."
Runcorn & Widnes World 31 March "Milestone as final beams fitted on Runcorn link to Mersey Gateway" Runcorn & Widnes World 26 March "Volunteers wanted to tell story of new bridge" - one comment is "Wonder if they have trained them to tell porkies about the toll prices. They could tell you a story about how they can demand a toll crossing and how they are going to toll the jubilee bridge that we have already paid for.
Instead of training people how to tell a bloody story they want to put there heads together and figure out how they are not going to charge Halton residents at least dick Turpin wore a mask when he robbed people but I'm sure the story will be great but it won't be happily ever after for Halton residents."
Runcorn & Widnes World 25 March "Win a trip to see the Mersey Gateway up close as it takes shape" Runcorn & Widnes World 16 March "Thousands of trees replace those felled to make way for Mersey Gateway" Chester Chronicle 12 March "The Mersey Gateway bridge deck is now 50% finished".
April 14 - REPORT FROM THE THIEVES AT ANOTHER 'CASHLESS' CROSSING
The Government charge tolls where the M25 crosses the Thames at Dartford. The law under which the crossing was built said the tolls should have stopped by 2003, but tolls are still being charged and since they went cashless (as the 'Mersey Gateway' tolls will be) there are now also heavy fines. The Government have now published the accounts for 2015-16 which is the first full year since the fines were introduced.
The cost of collecting the tolls and maintaining the crossing was £78 million - most of this seems to be the cost of collecting the tolls and fines. The tolls were £108 million and the fines were £53 million. They only expect to collect half the fines, but even so their ill gotten gain is £57 million.
Highways England 29 March "Dartford-Thurrock river crossing charging scheme Accounts 2015 - 2016" pdf.
April 14 - NO SEASON TICKETS FOR HGVs
L'pool Echo 24 March "No 'immediate plans' to introduce monthly Mersey Gateway travel passes for heavier vehicles".
April 14 - PLEASE SIR, NOT SO MUCH
L'pool Echo 18 March "Business fears Mersey Gateway bridge tolls could hit trade".
As virtually no Merseyside businesses or business groups have lifted a finger to oppose tolls, they are lucky that they do not have to pay even more.
March 11 - HALF A LOAF IS WORSE THAN NONE
More from the Troll spinners - Runcorn & Widnes World 10 March "New Mersey Gateway bridge reaches half way stage" (with a few comments on not needing such a big bridge to cross the Mersey pond) Echo 9 March "Mersey Gateway bridge more than half complete".
The region would be better off if this bridge was never completed, but as they started construction nearly three years ago (see May 2014) and it us due to be opened ths autumn, they will have to speed up with their Meccano.
March 11 - TORY MP SAYS HE STILL WANTS DISCOUNTS FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T SPEAK HALTONESE
Chester Chronicle 9 March "Graham Evans stands by claims he would 'bang on the Chancellor's door' on Mersey Gateway tolls".
March 11 - NEWS MEDIA SCRAPE THE BARREL
Issued by the Trolls spin machine and dutifully printed by the 'news' papers - one man gets a job - Runcorn & Widnes World 8 March "Apprentice lands full time job".
March 11 - PAIN
The Echo is apparently unaware why Halton in 2016 experienced the second worst increase in congestion in England - Echo 10 March "Runcorn and Widnes motorists wasted nearly TWO days last year in traffic".
March 8 - BUSINESSES LOVE TOLLS AND SAY PLEASE SIR CAN WE PAY SOME MORE
Echo 8 March "Leading council and business figures confident firms will thrive in Halton despite bridge tolls".
March 7 - MORE PAIN
Runcorn & Widnes World 7 March "Road closures in Runcorn as new bridge takes shape" Echo 7 March "Runcorn road to shut for almost three months".
March 3 - "ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW" ABOUT RIP-OFF
Echo 3 March "No toll booths on the Mersey Gateway bridge - so how do I pay?" Chester Chronicle 1 March "No toll booths on the Mersey Gateway bridge - so how will it work?" Echo 1 March "Tolling system for Runcorn and Widnes bridges unveiled" Wirral Globe 28 February "TOLLS: All you need to know about crossing the new Mersey Gateway" Runcorn & Widnes World 28 February "Tolling arrangements for new Mersey Gateway revealed" lot of comments BBC 28 February "Mersey Gateway: Motorbikes and local buses to avoid toll".
As you might guess these stories are from a handout from the Mersey trolls. Halton Council and Mersey Link seem to be distancing themselves from the tolls as a new dedicated tolls website has been launched called 'Mersey Flow'. In reality this new site has been registered by a French company called "Sanef Tolling". Trade sources say that the tolls are to be operated by yet another French company 'Emovis'. The connection seems to be that these are in fact both part of the 'Abertis' tolling empire which is based in Spain.
March 3 - ANOTHER TOLL
Runcorn & Widnes World 2 March "Peel problems" letter.
In fact, Peel know all about the tolls. In 2009 they were the ONLY business that spoke at the Inquiry in support of the scheme.
March 2 - BEST WAY OF 'AVOIDING' TOLL
BBC 28 February "Mersey Gateway: Motorbikes and local buses to avoid toll".
March 2 - GETTING ACROSS WITHOUT PAYING A TOLL
Runcorn & Widnes World 27 February "UPDATED: Teenagers caught climbing new Runcorn Widnes bridge".
Despite the headline, it seems that the people were walking across the temporary bridge which will be demolished before the permanent bridge opens.
March 2 - J'ACCUSE
Runcorn & Widnes World 24 February "Labour hypocrisy over new bridge" letter.
March 2 - IT WILL BE A 'FINE' DAY FOR THE TROLLS
Warrington Guardian 24 February "Fines and tolls to deliver cash from new bridge" letter.
March 2 - GOVERNMENT PLANNING MORE PRIVATE FINANCE SCAMS
Building 23 February "Government plans to use PF2 for raft of construction jobs".
Though these scams cost more than a normally funded scheme and only benefit the banksters, consultants and lawyers, the Goverment like them as they keep the spending off the balance sheet.
It is interesting that since PF2 replaced PFI in 2012, the only roads private finance scheme approved has been the Mersey Gateway.
February 17 - NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT
Some of the fine detail about the residents discount - Warrington Guardian 16 February "Bridge detail".
February 17 - THERE IS ANOTHER COUNTRY
Courier (Scotland) 15 February "Toll-free bridges save drivers £2k since 2008".
Drivers in Scotland have apparently saved £2,000 since the tolls were removed nine years ago. The bridges over the Mersey will be charging two pounds each way for a car or ninety pounds for a monthly pass. Over nine years theat will add up to £10,000. If the Scots had to suffer this then the polticians, bureaucrats and banksters would not be collecting river tolls - they would be in the river.
February 17 - PETITION AGAINST SITING OF NEW JUNCTION
Parliament 13 October "Stop the M56 new junction 11a scheme".
February 12 - EU RULES, OK?
The House of Commons have issued a 'briefing paper' on the many laws and regulations that had been implemented under EU law and will be affected by Brexit - Parliament 16 January "Look at history".
We were surprised to see that the list includes the following -
"The River Mersey (Mersey Gateway Bridge) Order 2011".
"The River Mersey (Mersey Gateway Bridge) (Amendment) Order 2016".
February 11 - WARRINGTON LABOUR CRITICISED
Warrington Guardian 9 February "Look at history" letter.
February 11 - TOLL ON DRIVING SCHOOLS
Runcorn & Widnes World 7 February "Driving instructors fear bridge tolls 'will split the borough'".
February 10 - WHERE HAVE ALL THE BRUSHES GONE?
Runcorn & Widnes World 8 February "'Bridge workers need to clean up dirty roads'" letter.
February 10 - PETITION PLUG
February 10 - WARRINGTON 'TO SUFFER'
Warrington Guardian 9 February "We will suffer" letter.
February 8 - WARRINGTON STILL COMPLAINING
Warrington Guardian 8 February "Council leader calls for Government to 'reinstate' free crossings over Mersey Gateway Bridge".
One of the comments points out that at the time of the Public Inquiry in 2009, Warrington Labour were all in favour of a tolled bridge. Labour may be hypocrites, but a late conversion is better than what is happening elsewhere in the areas where Labour are still backing tolls.
February 8 - PETITION IN NEWS
L'ool Echo 7 February "Petition calls for tolls to be ditched on Runcorn-Widnes bridges and Mersey tunnels".
This petition has today gone over 3,000 signatures. The signatures have come from these areas (based on constituencies which is not quite the same as Council areas) - Halton 530, Warrington 510, Wirral 430, Weaver Vale 310, Other Chester & Cheshire West 120, L'pool 260, Sefton 130, St Helens 130, Rest of country 580.
These numbers compare with the 1,850,000 who have signed a petition started about the same time asking Parliament to "Prevent Donald Trump from making a State Visit to the United Kingdom". From L'pool there were 13,200 signatures, Wirral 7,650, Halton 1,480. Is this a sign that people are happy to pay tolls or that they have no idea of what is going on in their own backyard?
February 8 - LOS CABALLEROS REVENUES
The Spaniards are doing well out of building the Gateway, but elsewhere their revenue is down - Construction News 7 February "FCC results: Mersey Gateway unable to prevent revenue fall".
February 6 - STUNNED
The Echo has a feature which includes the Birkenhaed Tunnel and the "Mersey Gateway". They even have a link to our Tunnels History page - L'pool Echo 5 Febuary "Mersey megaprojects - stunning pictures of our iconic landmarks being built".
February 3 - TOLLTALK
A MerseyLink engineer is to give a talk on the 8th about the new bridge - Runcorn & Widnes World 2 February "Bridge engineer talks about iconic Mersey crossing".
This engineer previously worked on the new Forth road bridge and other untolled structures. Perhaps someone should ask him why the Halton scheme is tolled.
February 2 - WARRINGTON REACTION TO GOVERNMENT RENEGING ON TOLLS PROMISE
Warrington Guardian 2 February ""I am fuming" Readers have their say on the bridge tolls".
February 2 - MORE ON GOVERNMENT RENEGING ON TOLLS PROMISE TO BUSINESSES
Runcorn & Widnes World 1 February "'Jobs at risk' as Government reneges on promise to help businesses with tolls".
It is not clear when the Government promised help to businesses and when they said that they could not do so because of the implication of state aid rules.
February 2 - "D" FOR DISASTER DAY ON TARGET
L'pool Echo World 1 February "New Runcorn bridge will be completed by autumn, bosses say".
The story says "Don't worry about the gaps in the bridge - everything is on schedule." Most people would be better off if this crazy scheme was NEVER finished.
February 2 - TAXI REPLY FROM HALTON COUNCIL BOSS
Runcorn & Widnes World 1 February "Have a say on taxi toll refunds" letter.
The Council boss says that "a local user discount scheme has been developed, funded by the council and central government". If this is correct then it would be interesting to know how much is being added to Halton Council tax bills to residents and businesses.
February 1 - SPINNING ON TOP
L'pool Echo 1 February "Stunning views from the tower at the new Runcorn bridge".
A recent report of a real bridge, and toll free - Dunfermline Press 24 January "Queensferry Crossing project leaders say May opening is "realistic"".
January 31 - WHAT YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN TOLD YEARS AGO
The Warrington Guardian has almost the same story as was in the L'pool Echo on the 26th. Presumably another handout from the Gateway PR people Runcorn & Widnes World 30 January "Your Mersey Gateway Bridge questions answered ahead of autumn opening".
January 31 - MORE ON GOVERNMENT RENEGE ON MERSEY 'GATEWAY' TOLL PROMISES
Chester Chronicle 31 January "Mersey Gateway tolls mean commuters 'need a hefty pay rise just to stand still’".
January 30 - GOVERNMENT RENEGE ON MERSEY 'GATEWAY' TOLL PROMISES
Last week the Government announced that residents outside Halton would have to pay tolls on the Mersey bridges despite what was promised by George Osborne before the General Election - DfT written statement to Parliament 24 January "Government funding for the Mersey Gateway Bridge scheme in Halton".
The statement is full of the usual nonsense associated with this bad mad scheme.
There is the usual hyperbole about schemes that may never happen. The only certainty is the new junction 11A. Oddly this is the junction that at the 2009 Public Inquiry they denied that it would be needed. Construction of a junction at this location will cause more disruption. The junction and the crossing should have been built west of the existing Silver Jubilee bridge where a new junction could have been built between junctions 12 and 14 with relatively little disruption.
The Minister say that drivers will have "a crossing that will deliver considerable congestion and journey time improvements to boost the region’s economy".
He must be bonkers if he believes this, though he may have the excuse that he has never been near the area. The reality is that the official forecast is that because of tolling there will be less traffic crossing the river between Runcorn and Widnes. This will not only increase congestion at alternative crossings, it is also bound to hit the local economy. If politicians believe otherwise then they must be living in an alternative reality.
One reason the Minister gives for not extending toll concessions is that "On the legal side, the feasibility work showed there would be a significant risk of a successful legal challenge to a decision to extend free tolling to some local Councils and not others."
Strange that it is legal to treat residents of Halton differently from other people, but it is not legal if the concession is extended. It would be interesting to see this legal opinion, but the authorities usually use the law as an excuse and then refuse to make public the opinion. The truth is that any concession restricted to residents of a particular area is probably illegal.
Another resaon that the Minister gives is that "On the cost side extending free tolling to only a handful of local Councils would still be at a substantial cost to the taxpayer. An extension of user discounts to not just Cheshire West & Chester and Warrington, as originally suggested, but also to the other 3 authorities that neighbour Halton (Knowsley, Liverpool City Council and St Helens), would be at an estimated cost of £604 million to the public purse. If, as is the case with Halton, the cost was to be split between the government and local authorities, £377 million would fall to the 5 local Councils."
Earlier in his statement the Minister said that the Government have given 372 million pounds to help fund the scheme. It is not clear why all of this should apparently be for the benefit of Halton. As for the 377 million pounds that would fall to be met by other local authorities "as is the case with Halton", it is not believable and there is no evidence that Halton are bearing any of the costs let alone hundreds of millions of pounds. But worst of all is the astronomic amount that is being wasted on this bonkers bankers scam, as the original estimate for building the bridge was only 200 million pounds!!
The Echo who are a long standing supporter of the tolled bridges scheme, reported the Minister's statement - L'pool Echo 24 January "Thousands in Cheshire and Merseyside will not receive Mersey Gateway free tolls discounts".
A couple of days later they had a summary of what was happening with tolls - L'pool Echo 26 January "Everything you need to know about Mersey Gateway tolls".
They even reported on some of the negative reaction - L'pool Echo 27 January "'No special scheme' for Halton small business bridge tolls" L'pool Echo 26 January "'I will have to pay to visit my parents' graves' - people react to Mersey Gateway toll u-turn".
Other reports were - Warrington Guardian 30 January "Lib Dems call on town's MPs to 'work together' to get tolls decision reversed" Runcorn & Widnes World 27 January "Former Chancellor George Osborne defends himself after breaking promise to scrap tolls" some comments Cheshire Today 26 January "Warrington leader slams toll plan" Runcorn & Widnes World 26 January "Government reneges on former Chancellor's promise to help small businesses in Halton" Runcorn & Widnes World 25 January "Warrington South MP David Mowat's 'No tolls' post goes viral after Government u-turn over bridge tolls" Runcorn & Widnes World 25 January "Council leader expresses anger after U-turn on bridge tolls promise – suggests MP ‘should consider position’" lot of comments.
One of the comments added to the Runcorn & Widnes World story says "We're being conned all the way to the tolls. Why do we need a massive super duper chasm straddling monster bridge.The road is on stilts upto the waters edge,why not continue the stilts across the river. Don't forget,the waters only about eight foot deep. A causeway would have sufficed. The cost would have been about a quarter of the monstrosity thats being built." The whole scheme is a very expensive tragi-comedy.
There were LOTS of comments added to this story - Warrington Guardian 24 January "UPDATED: Warrington drivers MUST pay tolls after all thanks to Government U-turn".
The story quotes David Mowat, local Conservative MP and Minister. On the legal challenge side he says - "Unfortunately, two local authorities have now begun legal proceedings against the Government...Unfortunately, other local authorities have tried to piggyback on this process and the legal opinion is that any scheme open to one neighbouring authority has to be open to all."
The announcement led to two MPs asking questions in Parliament on the 26th. Needless to say neither of them were from the Liverpool or Wirral area, where most of the MPs seem to bow to what Merseytravel commands. The question raised by Stephen Twigg is a bit odd as the Government statement made no mention of businesses.
Question by Christian Matheson the Labour MP for Chester - "Transport Ministers have confirmed that residents in Cheshire West and Chester will not qualify for reduced tolls on the new Mersey crossing, which completely contradicts the promises made immediately before the last general election by the then Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Tatton (Mr Osborne). Can we have a debate on car tolls so that the Government can explain why they have broken their promises to my constituents?"
Answer "I cannot promise a debate in Government time. This may be an Adjournment debate opportunity, but I will ask the relevant Minister to contact the hon. Gentleman about his point.
Question by Derek Twigg the Labour MP for Halton - "Further to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson), can we have an urgent debate to discuss the Government reneging on their promise to provide special help on tolls for small businesses in Halton when the new Mersey gateway bridge is opened? That is the second time they have reneged on something. The decision was announced by the then Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Tatton (Mr Osborne), on 23 April 2015. Can we have an urgent debate to find out why the Government are again refusing to honour their commitments?"
Answer "There are questions to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy next Tuesday, 31 January, which will provide the hon. Gentleman with such an opportunity. If I may, I will look into the point he raises alongside the point raised earlier by the hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson)."
This statement by the Minister seems to have inspired someone to start a new petition to Parliament against ALL the Mersey tolls Parliament petitions "Remove all tolls from the River Mersey".
January 27 - MORE SPIN
L'pool Echo 25 January "Extra motorway junction plans welcomed by Runcorn Linnets FC" L'pool Echo 25 January "M56 11a junction options in Runcorn boil down to long versus short term benefits" Runcorn & Widnes World 23 January "New bridge inspires young filmmakers".
January 27 - LATEST PAIN
L'pool Echo 25 January "Latest roadworks announced in Runcorn and Widnes for Mersey Gateway Project" Runcorn & Widnes World 23 January "Traffic delays as gas leak shuts Victoria Road in Widnes".
January 24 - TAXI!
Taxi drivers are to protest. Unlike other drivers they are well organised and may well get what they want - Runcorn & Widnes World 25 January "Hacked off by bridge charges for taxis" letter Runcorn & Widnes World 24 January "Taxi drivers fear tolls could drive them out of business" BBC 24 January "Taxi drivers to protest over Mersey Gateway bridge tolls".
January 20 - SPAGHETTI IN THE WRONG PLACE
L'pool Echo 18 January "Public invited to find out more about M56 motorway junction 11a plans in Runcorn".
January 20 - WARRINGTON CONCERNED
Runcorn & Widnes World 19 January "'Real concerns' over free bridge tolls promised for Warrington residents" Warrington Guardian 18 January "'I have real concerns' – council leader seeks answers on bridge tolls".
January 13 - BUS CUT
Runcorn & Widnes World 11 January "Runcorn bus service to be cut".
January 10 - NEW YEAR, OLDPAIN
L'pool Echo 10 January "January road closures in Runcorn and Widnes for Mersey Gateway Project" L'pool Echo 3 January "Giant concrete beams to be installed for brand new Widnes road viaduct" Runcorn & Widnes World 3 January "Victoria Road to close as giant beams instal new road viaduct in Widnes".
January 10 - FINISHED?
It's now all down to the navvies - L'pool Echo 10 January "Vast machine building Mersey Gateway Bridge in Widnes finishes work" Runcorn & Widnes World 8 January "Giant Mersey Gateway bridge building machine finishes work in Widnes".
January 10 - REPEAT
The Echo repeat their plug from the end of December L'pool Echo 9 January "Stunning aerial footage shows progress on new Runcorn-Widnes bridge".
2016 Gateway news
A/cs from 1934