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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 between 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? 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 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 - 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".
December 30 - MORE PLUGS
L'pool Echo 28 December "New Runcorn-Widnes bridge has come a long way over the past 12 months" L'pool Echo 24 December "Incredible pictures shows Mersey Gateway Bridge progress".
What a huge waste of effort. if they wanted to discourage people from crossing the river, they could have closed the Silver Jubilee bridge and hired a couple of leaky rowing boats.
December 22 - TAXIS AND THE DEATH STAR
Runcorn & Widnes World 21 December "Bridge sees dark forces at work" letter.
December 22 - LESS PAIN FOR XMAS, BUT LOOK OUT IN THE NEW YEAR
L'pool Echo 20 December "Festive cheer as roads re-open in Runcorn" L'pool Echo 13 December "Three-month road closure coming up in Runcorn in New Year".
December 1 - MORE SPIN
L'pool Echo 28 November "Winning road safety posters unveiled in Runcorn".
Perhaps someone could have suggested that for safety's sake, the hard hats go on the head :)
December 1 - A DAY AT THE BEACH
ITV 28 November "New Mersey bridge expected to open on time".
It must make it a bit easier to build a bridge when a lot of the time there is no water in the river :)
November 14 - NEW WAYS TO MAKE YOU PAY
Liverpool Echo 10 November "Proposed by-laws for Mersey Gateway Bridge to be reviewed by transport secretary".
November 14 - A BRIDGE NOT FAR ENOUGH
Scheme for a new bridge over the Mersey, though this being Merseyside this fantasy is of course not meant for road vehicles (though perhaps they will have a whip round so that Tunnels users can pay for the cost of it?) - Liverpool Echo 10 November "images of how Liverpool could look in the future" What Next Liverpool 15 October "Liverpool Bridge".
November 3 - NOVEMBER'S DOSE OF GATEWAY PAIN
Liverpool Echo 2 November "November lane closures planned for Runcorn and Widnes roads".
November 3 - LATEST SPIN
Liverpool Echo 1 November "Mersey Gateway crane operator reveals life in the sky above Runcorn and Widnes" Liverpool Echo 31 October "'Momentous occasion' as first stay cable connected on Mersey Gateway Bridge between Runcorn and Widnes".
October 26 - LATEST PAIN UPDATES
Liverpool Echo 25 October "Section of Astmoor Road in Runcorn to shut for six months" Liverpool Echo 25 October "Bridgewater Expressway westbound re-opens in Runcorn" as usual the last story is almost verbatim in another paper because almost everything that is written about the Gateway is based on PR press releases - Runcorn & Widnes World 23 October "New road junction opens on Bridgewater and Daresbury Expressways".
October 20 - GOOD NEWS IF YOU ARE A TROLL
Bad news for humans - Runcorn & Widnes World 20 October "Toll testing equipment being installed on approach to Runcorn Widnes bridge" Liverpool Echo 20 October "Bridge tolls test gantries installed in Runcorn".
There are no comments on the Echo story and only two comments on the World story, neither comment is bothered about either tolling or the spying. It shows what a wonderful job the PR people and the local press have done over the years to anaesthetise people.
October 20 - GOVERNMENT SAY OVER TO YOU
Liverpool Echo Oct 19 "Duty to assess bridge tolls impacts lies with council and city region says minister".
This is the usual claptrap: noise with no meaning.
The Mersey tolls scam was cooked up by Governments (Labour, and Tory / Lib Dem Coalition) and the Council. Whether the scheme went ahead, the level of tolls and any discounts have in effect been determined by the Government when deciding how much financial support to give to the Council and the banks. As for the City Region, the Echo story gives the impression that they have some say in this, but though Halton is part of it, the Region has no say in what happens with the two bridges, though Halton if it choses to can have a say on the level of Mersey Tunnel tolls.
This is the (written) questions that Luciana Berger asked in Parliament and the answer that she got (as you can see she also asked about Tunnel tolls):
Q46483 on 14 September "To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the effect of the tunnel and bridge tolls in Merseyside on the (a) finances, (b) employment levels, (c) employment choices and (d) road travel habits of residents of Liverpool, Wavertree."
Answer on 10 October: "Tolling levels for the Mersey Tunnels and the future Mersey Gateway Crossing are the responsibility of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Halton Borough Council respectively. Any assessment of the local impact of these tolls is therefore a matter for these bodies rather than this Department. The Department’s assessment of the business case for the Crossing included a consideration of the overall impacts effects of tolling levels on road users and showed that the new Crossing will reduce congestion and improve journey times for users. This assessment was not disaggregated to the level of individual local areas"
The Government are as usual misleading people. They say that "impacts effects of tolling levels on road users .. showed that the new Crossing will reduce congestion and improve journey times for users." The truth is that the studies showed that tolling would increase congestion as traffic would divert to other crowded crossings.
October 19 - MORE FROM THE TOLLS PR MACHINE
Runcorn & Widnes World 18 Oct "IN PICTURES: Fascinating bird's eye view of work on the new bridge".
More pictures of one of the most novel bridges in Britain: it is largely over earth, sand and mud rather than water.
October 19 - SJB WILL CLOSE FOR A YEAR WHILE THEY CONVERT IT TO A CYCLEWAY
Liverpool Echo Oct 17 "Silver Jubilee Bridge between Widnes and Runcorn could shut for a year over repainting work".
October 19 - NEW TOLL FREE BRIDGE OVER THE MERSEY
The catch is that it is not on Merseyside but in Greater Manchester: Construction Index Oct 14 "Planning approval granted for Stockport’s Mersey bridge".
October 19 - MORE ON MISERY WORKS
Liverpool Echo Oct 14 "Daresbury Expressway westbound to re-open in Runcorn".
Reopening one of the roads that they closed may seem more like an end to Misery, but the story reveal new closures.
October 11 - TOLLS PR MACHINE BUSY
Runcorn & Widnes World 7 Oct "Major milestone for Mersey Gateway as bridge pylon reaches highest point" Liverpool Echo Oct 7 "Tallest point of Mersey Gateway bridge installed".
As usual the Echo and Runcorn & Widnes World have almost identical stories as they largely print whatever the trolls give them.
October 11 - POLICE STATE TO COME TO THE MERSEY
Liverpool Echo Oct 6 "Minimum 20mph speed limit proposed for Mersey Gateway bridge" Liverpool Echo Oct 4 "Powers granted for council staff to enter vehicles to check bridge tolls payment kit".
What the stories do not mention is that there will be fines at "Level 3 on the standard
scale", which is up to one thousand pounds, for breaking any of the thirty bridge and toll rules Halton Council "Mersey Gateway Bridge Byelaws 2016" (pdf).
October 1 - MISERY WORKS
Liverpool Echo Sep 30 "One road closes as another opens in Widnes in latest bridge works bulletin" Liverpool Echo Sep 21 "Mersey Gateway roadworks affecting busy Widnes junction to enter next phase" Runcorn & Widnes World Sep 20 "New road to open under Ditton junction for traffic from Liverpool to Runcorn bridge".
October 1 - PM DELUDED
Click Liverpool Sep 29 "Theresa May confirms commitment to Northern Powerhouse and a "successful Liverpool"".
The PM says that the Governmmet have given "£474 million" to the bridge. This 'may' be correct, but it is far more than what would have been the cost of a normal public untolled crossing and we could have had it by 2010. She is deluded if she thinks that this bridge scam is good news.
October 1 - FROM THE TOLLS PR MACHINE
Liverpool Echo Sep 24 "Mersey Gateway art exhibition showcasing children's talents opens in Widnes" Runcorn & Widnes World Sep 22 "New bridge inspires children to develop imaginative art skills"
Liverpool Echo Sep 14 "Mersey Gateway bridge machine named after Transporter engineer" Runcorn & Widnes World Sep 14 "Lunts Heath pupils christen new bridge building maching (sic)".
As usual the local new media print "stories" that are more like free adverts with 99% of the content handed to them. And of course the tolls are rarely mentioned.
October 1 - COUNCIL TO CONSIDER TOLLS ORDER
Halton Council Sep 14 see item 29: "Mersey Gateway Bridge", there are various links that you can click on but the main report is here: Halton Sep 14 "Mersey Gateway Bridge –River Mersey (Mersey Gateway Bridge) Order 2011 as modified by the River Mersey (Mersey Gateway Bridge) (Amendment) Order 2016 and Proposed Mersey Gateway Bridge and A533 (Silver Jubilee Bridge) Road User Charging Scheme Order" pdf.
The Council decided to bring in the Tolls Order with no further consulation and "no public inquiry". Naturally this little bit oif modern democracy was not reported in the "news" media.
September 10 - THE ONCE AND FUTURE JUNCTION
At the Public Inquiry we and others said that if they insisted on building the bridge in the wrong location then there would be chaos, particularly around Junction 12 and the Weston roundabout. Objectors said that they would need a new junction on the M56 between 12 and 11. The Council said that there were no plans for this, possibly because they realised that if they said this then it would increase the number of objectors or perhaps the Council just did not have a clue about the effects of their scheme. Now seven yaers after the Inquiry they have announced that there will after all be a new junction between 12 and 11.
Liverpool Echo Sep 9 "More details emerge of proposed M56 junction 11a options in Runcorn" Liverpool Echo Sep 6 "Two options being considered for M56 junction 11a in Runcorn" Chester Chronicle Sep 1 "New M56 Cheshire junction proposals to be unveiled at information event" Liverpool Echo Aug 25 "M56 junction 11a public information event in Runcorn".
September 10 - TROLL ASKS ABOUT DISCOUNTS
Liverpool Echo Sep 8 "MP seeks answers on Runcorn-Widnes bridge tolls discounts for drivers from neighbouring areas".
This is another example of the hypocrisy and short memories of politicians. Maria Eagle was one of those who voted for the Mersey Tunnels Bill in 2003. The Bill made it a lot easier to increase tolls and for Merseytravel to spend the tolls on whatever they liked (U-boat anyone?). The Bill was also supported by Halton Council as they wanted Tunnel tolls to be as high as possible so that they could set the planned bridge tolls even higher.
The Echo story implies that Maria asked one or two questions. In fact she went for broke and asked six very similar questions all on the same day. All the (written) questions that Maria Eagle asked in Parliament and the answers that she got are below. You may notice that Maria mainly asked about people who lived in Halton, Knowsley, Cheshire West and Warrington. She did not directly mention Liverpool though that is where most of her constituents live:
Q43726 on 20 July "To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether funding will be made available to Knowsley Council to enable residents who live in close proximity to the Mersey Gateway Bridge and Silver Jubilee Bridge to travel toll-free when those bridges open."
Q43666 on 20 July "To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will extend the local discount scheme to residents across Merseyside to allow them to travel toll-free across the Mersey Gateway and Silver Jubilee bridges when they open in 2017."
The identical answer that was given om 5 September to the above two questions: "My officials continue to work with the Department for Transport on the financial and contractual implications of any further extension of user discounts. A decision will be made on this in due course."
Q43608 on 20 July "To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the introduction of tolls on the Mersey Gateway and Silver Jubilee bridges; and whether a decision has been taken on discounts for local businesses and residents."
Q43610 on 20 July "To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what criteria he will use to determine eligibility for discounted travel as part of the local discount scheme when tolls on the Mersey Gateway and Silver Jubilee bridges are introduced."
Q43667 on 20 July "To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what funding he is making available to (a) Warrington and Cheshire West and (b) Chester councils to enable residents to travel toll-free across the Mersey Gateway Bridge and Silver Jubilee Bridge when they open in 2017."
Q43667 on 20 July "To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what progress he has made on ensuring financial support will be made available for local businesses in Knowsley and Liverpool once tolls are introduced on the Mersey Gateway bridge."
The identical answer that was given om 5 September to the above four questions: "Following the previous Chancellor’s further statement in July 2015 that the Government is looking at extending Mersey Gateway bridge toll discounts to residents of Chester West & Chester and Warrington, officials are currently working through what the proposed further extension means for the scheme both by way of the cost to the Department but also and importantly what this would do to the commercial structure of the contracts already signed for the scheme. Once this is clear we will be able to provide more information."
September 10 - ANOTHER LEGACY FROM THE COUNCIL
Many of those who objected to the toll bridge plans had also unsuccessfully opposed the Council's support for an incinerator. Here is a recent story about the pollution:
Liverpool Echo Sep 7 "Plume Plotter maps 'reveal incinerator pollution over Runcorn and Widnes'".
September 10 - FROM THE TOLLS PR MACHINE
Liverpool Echo Sep 5 "Huge bridge building machines launch in Mersey Estuary between Runcorn and Widnes"  : Runcorn & Widnes World Sep 4 "Milestone reached in construction of £500m Mersey Gateway" Liverpool Echo Aug 29 "Mersey Gateway visitor centre in Widnes welcomes 10,000th guest".
September 10 - MORE ON MISERY WORKS
Liverpool Echo Sep 2 "Road routes in Halton affected by Mersey Gateway roadworks".
September 10 - M56 Problem
Liverpool Echo Aug 25 "Lead letter: Retired civil engineer and Halton mayor from Runcorn calls for action over M56".
What the letter writer and the newws media do not tell you is that the problem can only get worse because of the location of the "Gateway". Most of the traffic crossing the river is going to or from the area to the west of Runcorn (Liverpool, Knowsley, Chester, West Cheshire, North Wales). Any new crossing should have been built to the west of the existing crossing and to the west of junction 12, instead they are building it to the east. We tried to point this out at the Public Inquiry, but the Inspector said that it was not a matter that he could consider.
August 20 - MORE ON MISERY WORKS
Liverpool Echo Aug 15 "Central Expressway re-opens in Runcorn" Liverpool Echo Aug 10 "Mersey Gateway roadworks throughout August in Runcorn and Widnes ".
August 20 - MORE FROM THE PR MACHINE
Liverpool Echo Aug 13 "Mersey Gateway bridge progress charted in stunning pictures" Liverpool Echo Aug 6 "Gargantuan cranes in action to build collosal bridge-building machine in Runcorn" Liverpool Echo Jul 30 "Widnes students gain insight into Mersey Gateway progress" Liverpool Echo Jul 29 "Vast crane extended to height of 32 double decker buses as Mersey Gateway work continues" Liverpool Echo Jul 28 "Huge cranes the size of 32 double decker buses tower over the Mersey".
July 29 - TREES MORE MEDIEVAL THAN THE TOLLS
Another bizarre example of how the trolls supply the local news media with ready made stories about trivia while the big issues are ignored: Liverpool Echo July 28 "Stone Age tree trunk more than 6,500 years old uncovered in Widnes" Runcorn & Widnes World July 25 "Ancient 6,500 year old tree trunk discovered during excavation for new bridge".
July 29 - GATEWAY PROVIDING MORE WORK - FOR REST OF BRITAIN
Shropshire Express & Star 26 July "Barnshaw curves help raise Mersey bridge".
July 29 - MORE PAIN
Liverpool Echo 22 July "Road closures in place for Runcorn and Widnes as Mersey Gateway work continues".
And it seems that the authorities have also been raking in money by fining drivers breaking an illegal speed limit Runcorn & Widnes World July 20 "Drivers could challenge convictions after speeding charge is dropped".
July 18 - CANDIDATE FOR REGION MAYOR MAKES NO PROMISES ON TOLLS
Liverpool Echo 18 July "Metro mayor contender discusses tolls and high-speed rail during Mersey Gateway tour in Widnes".
The Mayor and the Region have no power over the Halton bridges, so they can do nothing about the tolls.
July 29 - MORE GUMPF FROM THE TROLLS PR MACHINE
Liverpool Echo 17 July "Runcorn pupils have honour of declaring footbridge open" Liverpool Echo 15 July "Degree students and school pupils gain career experience on Mersey Gateway bridge".
July 14 - SECRET GIFT FROM CHINA
Lots of coverage in the press about another bridge building machine, but not a mention that the machines come from China Liverpool Echo 5 July "Bridge building machine begins arriving in Runcorn for Mersey Gateway work" Runcorn & Widnes World July 1 "Work starts on outer road deck of Mersey Gateway" Liverpool Echo June 20 "Concrete pours as work begins on Mersey Gateway northern approach in Widnes".
July 14 - MORE CLOSURES
Liverpool Echo 5 July "Latest Mersey Gateway roadworks bulletin released".
July 1 - BREXIT EFFECT?
There have beeen some stories which say that the result of the EU Referendum may have an impact on infrastructure deals and might also have a negative impact on the Mersey Gateway financing and its Government guarantee. We would like to know more but of course the local news media have turned a blind eye to this issue.
July 1 - MORE CLOSURES
Liverpool Echo June 20 "Weston Point Expressway lane closures among latest Mersey Gateway roadworks in Runcorn and Widnes ".
June 21 - ANOTHER UKIP PROTEST
Liverpool Echo 13 June "UKIP protest against tolls to cross bridges in Runcorn and Widnes" Liverpool Echo 9 June "UKIP to hold protest against 'highway robbery' bridge tolls in Runcorn and Widnes".
June 21 - ECHO SAYS "MUCH MORE THAN A BRIDGE"
Liverpool Echo 12 June "The Mersey Gateway Bridge takes shape at 70 metres a month - and that's just the start".
One of the readers must also think that it is "much more than a bridge", their comment says:
"Built to make money only and it stinks, a toll charge to be put on the free silver jubilee bridge is disgraceful...Runcorn and Widnes have been decimated by the construction of the new bridge, the situation wasn't broke, but when there's cash to be made, there's always somebody to fix it."
June 21 - ECHO CLAIMS THAT BRIDGE HAS ALREADY "PUMPED" £129M INTO REGION'S ECONOMY
Liverpool Echo 2 June "Mersey Gateway has pumped £129m into regional economy already say bosses".
Even if you believe the figures, the firms that are benefitting are up to 30 miles away and many will be outside the Halton and Merseyside area. There is of course no mention of the money that will be coming out of the local economy and going to the banksters: over one billion pounds in tolls.
May 31 - MORE ON THE MERSEY MISERY TO COME
The Mersey Gateway will have "cashless" tolls. The Dartford Crossing over the Thames already has them and this is another report on what is in store for those who travel over the Mersey: Observer 8 May "Toll and trouble: Dartford cameras fine drivers for journeys they didn’t make".
May 10 - PRIVATE SECTOR BOSS TO CHAIR THE GATEWAY BOARD
Liverpool Echo 10 May "Former Everyman director appointed Mersey Gateway board chairman".
The caption on the picture of the new chairman says 'DLA Piper Business Person Of The Year in 2012'. Could this be the same DLA Piper who steered through approval of the tolled bridges?
May 10 - HALTON ELECTION
Runcorn & Widnes World 3 May "Election eve - leaders and independents outline why Halton residents should vote for them".
The only party that raised the issue of tolls were UKIP as the other parties want to keep the people of Halton sedated and ignorant.
UKIP blame Labour for the tolls, but we don't see much difference between Labour, Tories and Lib Dems: they will all fleece drivers if they can get away with it. Though Halton Against Tolls and others did at least manage to get promises from the Government that Halton residents will not pay the tolls.
As usual most people did not vote and the turnout was only 27.3%. The result of the election was that the Lib Dems and Tories won one seat each with Labour taking 17. The composition of the Council is now 52 Labour, 2 Tories and 2 Lib Dems.
May 10 - BUSINESSES ASKED TO PAY TO BE TOLD ABOUT 'PROGRESS'
Runcorn & Widnes World 3 May "Update on new Mersey Gateway for Halton businesses".
May 10 - HALTON SCHOOLS ASKED TO 'CHRISTEN' CHINESE MACHINE
Runcorn & Widnes World 5 May "Children to christen second colossal bridge building machine" Liverpool Echo 2 May "Halton schools invited to name giant bridge building machine on its way to Runcorn".
April 30 - TWIGG PRESSES GOVERNMENT ON TOLLS, BUT GETS CONFUSING ANSWERS
Liverpool Echo Apr 28 "Minister pressed over small business tolls discounts by Halton MP".
It is good that Derek is now trying to do something about tolls for 'small busnesses', but at the Public Inquiry in 2009 he spoke in support of the Council and their bad mad scheme.
This is the written question that he asked on 23 March - "To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to his visit to the Mersey Gateway on 23 April 2015, what progress has been made on ensuring support will be provided to small businesses in Runcorn and Widnes when that bridge opens in 2017 related to the cost of tolls crossing the Mersey Gateway."
On 11 April the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Transport answered - "Residents of Halton will already be able to use the bridges for free following previous Government decisions to fund an extension to the original, limited, resident’s discount scheme proposed by Halton Borough Council. Heavy goods vehicles and coaches will pay the same wherever they are geographically based which will ensure a level playing field for businesses across the North West."
That answered sounded like a definite refusal.
On 20 April Derek had another go - "To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 23 March 2016 to Question 32463, what recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on his announcement of 23 April 2015 of a special scheme to help small businesses in Runcorn and Widnes using the new Mersey Gateway Bridge and the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge from 2017."
On the 25 April, the Minister answered - "The Secretary of State for Transport met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 29th February 2016 and discussion included discount schemes on the Mersey Gateway Crossing. Officials in the Department for Transport and Her Majesty’s Treasury are continuing to work through the implications of any further extension of user discounts to the cost of the scheme and to the commercial structure of the contracts already signed for the scheme."
If the Chancellor made such an announcement in April 2015 and there was a meeting about it on 29 February this year, then why did the Minister give such a negative answer on 11 April? Are the Government so used to helping the Council to con the public that the right hand has no idea what the left hand is doing?
This story is also odd in that what the Chancellor said in April 2015 was that busineses WOULD HAVE TO PAY. The concession that he mentioned then (cars and small vans could have unlimited crossings for £90 a month) is already agreed and mentioned on the official Mersey Gateway site. So what game are they all playing?
Though the biggest question is why the Tory MPs for Warrington and West Cheshire constituencies are not pressing the Government on the concessions that were really promised a year ago, i.e that their residents would not have to pay any tolls.
April 30 - CHINA TROLLS
Liverpool Echo Apr 24 "Chinese engineering delegation tops off UK visit at Mersey Gateway construction site".
The Chinese have many of the longest bridges in the World Wikipedia "List of longest bridges in the world", and have nothing to learn from the bridge being built across the Mersey pond. But I.C.E. is a big fan of tolls, so perhaps they want to interest the Chinese into helping to fleece UK road users.
April 18 - TODAY'S UKIP DEMO IN WIDNES AGAINST BRIDGE TOLLS
Liverpool Echo Apr 18 "Ukip holds tolls protest at Runcorn-Widnes bridge" Runcorn & Widnes World Apr 18 "UKIP mounting tolls protest on Silver Jubilee bridge".
April 18 - GATEWAY PAIN
Liverpool Echo Apr 13 "Motorists reminded of Runcorn M56 junction's weekend closure" The queues approaching the roundabout at the end of the Weston Expressway are bad already due to roadworks, so will anyone notice that it is virtually closed?
April 18 - UPDATE ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE BRIDGE ON SAND
Runcorn & Widnes World Apr 15 "Historic bottles dating back 150 years unearthed during Mersey Gateway construction" - Will they give the same publicity if they unearth anything left over from chemical weapons production?
Runcorn & Widnes World Apr 14 "Giant bridge building machines reach new heights".
Like other PR handouts both above stories were also in the Echo, though they only managed to publish them on the 18th.
April 10 - UKIP DEMONSTRATE AGAIN AGAINST RUNCORN BRIDGE TOLLS
UKIP are having another Tolls Protest. This one will be on Monday 18th April at 7.30 am till 10.00 am on the Widnes side of the Runcorn Bridge/ SJB. They will be meeting at Irwell Street, West Bank, WA8 0DZ.
Directions to the meeting place:
From M56, on Bridge keep in left hand lane, take 1st exit off Bridge and turn immediate left and follow signs for Catalyst Museum, carry straight on and turn right at the roundabout then keep on and turn left when you see signs for Catalyst Museum, keep on until you reach the No Entry sign and turn right into Irwell Street.
From Liverpool, the Flyover to the Bridge is now closed so use the slip road following the Widnes signs and going through a set of lights, past a McDonalds to the next set of lights, then follow the signs to either the West Bank or the Catalyst Museum..
April 10 - UPDATE ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE NEW FORTH BRIDGE
BBC Apr 6 "Forth Crossing" video.
April 10 - GATEWAY PAIN
Liverpool Echo Apr 7 "Part of Ditton Flyover in Widnes to be demolished this weekend " Liverpool Echo Apr 6 "Runcorn slip road to shut permanently" Liverpool Echo Apr 6 "Roadworks throughout April announced in Runcorn and Widnes for Mersey Gateway Project" Runcorn & Widnes World Apr 4 "Weston Link 'loop' slip road to Southern Expressway to close permanently".
We were going to head some of this "April Fool", as it seemed too daft to be true.
April 10 - BIT MORE ON HALTON BUSINESSES ASK FOR LOWER TOLLS
Runcorn & Widnes World Apr 5 "Chancellor lobbied for discount bridge tolls for Halton businesses".
April 10 - APRIL FOOL?
Liverpool Echo Apr 4 "Letter outlining fresh Mersey Gateway funding arrangements set for rubber-stamping".
Construction work started on this scheme nearly two years ago and no tolls for residents was announced in July 2014, but we are now told in April 2016 that they have only just got a letter about the funding and the Council has yet to agree it. Oddest of all is that the news media are so bewitched by the tolls PR people that they don't question any of this!
April 10 - HOW TO MAKE A FORTUNE FROM DRIVERS WHO DON'T PAY THE TOLLS
The plan is that the tolls on the new bridge and the existing bridge will be cashless. So drivers will have to pay either before they cross or later the same day. Those who don't pay on time will be subject to punitive fines. The Dartford Crossing already have this system and they are making a fortune - at least it is a fortune if the drivers pay the fines -
News Shopper Mar 16 "Dartford Crossing earns £3m PER WEEK in driver fines".
April 2 - HALTON BUSINESSES ASK FOR LOWER TOLLS
Liverpool Echo Apr 1 "Halton Chamber to lobby chancellor over bridge toll discounts for borough businesses" Runcorn & Widnes World Apr 1 "Chancellor lobbied for discount bridge tolls for Halton businesses".
Why accept that you HAVE TO PAY any tolls?
April 2 - LIVERPOOL MAYOR JOINS IN PULLING THE OTHER ONE
Liverpool Echo Mar 24 "Unlock Runcorn promo video narrated by John Bishop launched as city mayor hails 'fantastic initiative'"
March 22 - COACH FIRM FEARS EFFECT OF TOLLS
Liverpool Echo Mar 22 "Runcorn coach firm seeks answers over bridge tolls 'highwayman'" Runcorn & Widnes World Mar 16 "Operators fear high coach tolls on Mersey Gateway could drive business out of Halton".
Update - Liverpool Echo Apr 1 "Campaign could be brewing over bridge tolls discounts for Halton businesses"
March 22 - UPDATE ON BRIDGE OVER SANDS
Liverpool Echo Mar 19 "New aerial image shows Mersey Gateway Bridge starting to take shape".
March 22 - JOBS FOR THE BOYS
Liverpool Echo Mar 16 "Runcorn recruits join Mersey Gateway project" Runcorn & Widnes World Mar 17 "Runcorn scaffolding apprentices hired for new Mersey Gateway".
As usual we have two identical 'stories' and pictures. They are identical because these are not news they are PR designed to distract people from the real issues such as how many of the people employed on the bridge are from Halton.
March 22 - GATEWAY PAIN
Runcorn & Widnes World Mar 21 "Weekend road closures at M56 junction 12 pave way for new Mersey Gateway" Liverpool Echo Mar 21 "Motorists urged to plan ahead as Runcorn M56 junction road closures loom".
Liverpool Echo Mar 16 "Latest roadworks announced in Runcorn and Widnes for Mersey Gateway Project" Liverpool Echo Mar 10 "Motorists warned to expect delays ahead of Ditton Flyover closing in Widnes" Liverpool Echo Mar 9 "Traffic hell awaits with permanent closure of Ditton Flyover, which links Widnes and Speke" Runcorn & Widnes World Mar 9 "Disruptions and delays expected as Ditton flyover closes on Easter Monday".
March 5 - PETITION AGAINT DEMOLISHING WATERLOO CENTRE FOR NEW BRIDGE ROAD WORKS
Liverpool Echo Feb 29 "Petition calls for Widnes building near Mersey Gateway Bridge path not to be demolished" inc link to petition.
Update - Liverpool Echo Mar 14 "Demolition of Waterloo Centre in Widnes goes ahead".
March 5 - GATEWAY PAIN
Liverpool Echo Feb 25 "Ditton Roundabout in Widnes to close over two weekends for Mersey Gateway roadworks".
March 5 - TOLL BANDITS MEET
Liverpool Echo Feb 23 "Mersey Gateway bridge works update looks at tolls legal wrangle and accident figures".
They seem to be worried that the Government will not give them permission to take stringent measures against those who don't pay the tolls. We don't understand why they are worried as both the local polticians and the Government are united in the aims of privatising the existing bridge and adding extra burdens on drivers.
March 5 - HOW TO BUILD A BRIDGE
Liverpool Echo Feb 21 "How do you build England's biggest new bridge?".
Perhaps the question should have been how do you pull England's biggest con trick?
This is the craziest bridge ever as the aim is to have less traffic crossing the river than thete is now. Almost no one believes this because the PR people have fed the news media with lots of 'nice' stories and made sure that the facts are ignored.
February 18 - PULL THE OTHER ONE!
Deluded local politicians say that demolishing access roads to the existing bridge and putting tolls on both the old and new bridges will mean more tourists come to Halton - Liverpool Echo Feb 17 "Comic John Bishop to narrate film and help turn Runcorn into a tourist attraction".
February 18 - CHILDREN ALLEGED TO BE THROWING STONES AT BRIDGE BUILDERS
Liverpool Echo Feb 17 "Bridge team and police make plea over children throwing logs at workers and entering building sites".
February 18 - NEW BRIDGE WORKS TURNS CANAL INTO DITCH?
Liverpool Echo Feb 16 "Concerns raised over dropping water levels at Widnes beauty spot".
February 18 - UNDER WAY
Liverpool Echo Feb 18 "Amazing pictures of Runcorn's Bridges show how Mersey landmarks were built" Liverpool Echo Feb 15 "First section of Mersey Gateway roadway deck span completed" Liverpool Echo Feb 5 "Giant machines to begin work on creating Mersey Gateway bridge deck between Runcorn and Widnes".
January 28 - REACTION TO GATEWAY PAIN
Runcorn & Widnes World Jan 27 "Driven mad by another round of road closures".
January 28 - GATEWAY TOLL EQUIPMENT TEST
Liverpool Echo Jan 26 "Temporary gantries ahead of Mersey Gateway Bridge opening could be placed in Runcorn".
January 28 - LATEST FROM THE GATEWAY SPIN MACHINE
Runcorn & Widnes World Jan 26 "Children showcase artwork inspired by the new Mersey Gateway bridge".
January 25 - GATEWAY CONSTRUCTION
Liverpool Echo Jan 21 "Vast bridge-building machine starts pouring concrete for Mersey Gateway in Widnes".
Unlike England, Scotland is currently building a major estuarial bridge which will not be tolled, and which is expected to open about the end of 2016 - World Highways Jan 6 "Scotland’s new Queensferry Crossing over the Forth Estuary".
January 25 - GATEWAY PAIN
Liverpool Echo Jan 19 "Latest Mersey Gateway roadworks in Runcorn and Widnes announced".
December 31 - GATEWAY PAIN, with BRIEF RESPITE
Runcorn & Widnes World Dec 30 "Silent night bliss as Mersey Gateway roadworks halted over Christmas" Runcorn & Widnes World Dec 22 "Mersey Gateway team publishes upcoming road and path closures".
December 31 - TWO GATEWAY XMAS PRESENTS
Guess which of the two stories is from the Councils' spin machine-
Runcorn & Widnes World Dec 29 "'40 Mersey-Gateway bridge construction jobs laid off' claims made" Runcorn & Widnes World Dec 21 "Mersey Gateway bridge builders host children's Christmas party".
December 12 - GATEWAY PETITION
Liverpool Echo Dec 19 "Dad fears for his job if toll charge for Mersey Gateway goes ahead " Liverpool Echo Dec 7 "Petition calling for toll on Mersey Gateway bridge to be scrapped posted online".
'Make the new Mersey Gateway crossing free for all' Petition on UK Parliament website.
December 12 - MERSEY GATEWAY SOLVES UNEMPLOYMENT PROBLEM - FOR TWO
Runcorn & Widnes World Nov 27 "Apprentices from Halton land jobs on Halton's iconic bridge project".
The Council's PR people must be getting desperate.
November 15 - PAIN NOW WITH GATEWAY
Runcorn & Widnes World Nov 10 "Traffic chaos" Runcorn & Widnes World Oct 23 "Central and Southern Expressways in Runcorn to close for seven months for Mersey Gateway roadworks" Runcorn & Widnes World Oct 14 "Runcorn residents fear vibrations from Mersey Gateway roadworks could damage their homes".
November 15 - SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME ON THE GATEWAY
For a year the Dartford Crossing has been on the system that they plan to use for the Mersey Gateway. There has been chaos, here is a recent example - Guardian Nov 10 "I was charged £150 in tolls when I wasn’t even in the country".
November 15 - WILL NOT BE FIXED
Chester Chronicle Nov 6 "Can the M56 be fixed? Highways England considers motorway safety improvements".
To reduce the problems between junctions 12 and 14, the new crossing should have been built west of the existing bridge and a junction 13 created. Instead they are building the new bridge to the east and if anything this will make the M56 problem worse.
November 15 - TORIES REPEAT PROMISE OF NO TOLLS ON GATEWAY BRIDGE FOR WARRINGTON RESIDENTS
Warrington Guardian Oct 24 "Mowat 'surprised' over council's toll stance for new Mersey crossing" Warrington Guardian Oct 22 "No progress on government promise to scrap Mersey Gateway tolls for residents".
October 18 - ROUNDUP OF THE LATEST STORIES FROM THE GATEWAY SPIN MACHINE
More stories from the local press that are little more than PR handouts-
L'pool Echo Oct 16 - "Grant to allow panoramic view of Halton at Widnes museum" Runcorn & Widnes World Oct 15 - "Around Halton in 360 degrees as Catalyst secures £47,000 digital app project".
The World story says that the new bridge "has been described as the biggest engineering feat in the country and one of the world’s most innovative projects". This accolade was given to the scheme by KPMG, a firm of accountants! The construction of the scheme is innovative in that they are building a massive structure over what is more like a park lake than an arm of the sea, this has enabled them to use techniques that would not normally be possible. This begs the question of why they are not building a simpler low level structure.
The real engineering feat is the bridge that is being built over the Firth of Forth. A bridge that will not be tolled - BBC Aug 13 - "Queensferry Crossing becomes UK's tallest bridge" webcams of the new Forth bridge construction.
On 14 October, the Roads Minister gave a speech at a Highways Magazine dinner. He boasted about all the money that the Government was spending on roads and said "On the local network we are funding schemes such as the new Mersey Gateway Bridge..". Perhaps the Minister has forgotten the two billion pounds in tolls that drivers will be throwing into the hat!
Keep Away! by land and air - L'pool Echo Oct 17 - "Runcorn and Widnes Mersey Gateway road and path closures announced " L'pool Echo Oct 6 - "Consortium behind Mersey Gateway Project issues warning over drone flights in and around site".
This story illustrates the contempt that the authorities have for the population of Merseyside. "Maintaining quality of life" means that Halton is the 27th worst out of 326 local authorities in England, this is the same as it was in 2010 and only slightly better than it was in 2007 (Halton were then the 30th worst), this is despite (or because of?) their much hyped tolled bridge scheme. - L'pool Echo Oct 5 - "Halton Council says borough has maintained quality of life".
Even the stories about the disruption that the toll gateway is causing seem to come from the spin doctors. Oddly some of the papers repeated the same story two weeks later, don't the papers bother to look at the PR stuff they get from the Council? -
L'pool Echo Oct 12 - "M56 slipway closure for Mersey Gateway work as project bosses confirm bridge scheme is on schedule " Runcorn & Widnes World Oct 9 - "M56 slip road at junction 12 in Runcorn to close for five weeks to prepare for Mersey Gateway bridge"
Chester Chronicle Oct 7 - "M56 eastbound exit slip at Runcorn junction 12 to close for five weeks" with 1 comment
L'pool Echo Sep 29 - "M56 eastbound exit slip at Runcorn junction 12 to close for five weeks" Runcorn & Widnes World Sep 29 - "M56 eastbound slip road at junction 12 to close for five weeks for Mersey Gateway works".
Here are a couple of stories that have less of the usual spin - Chester Chronicle Oct 13 - "More M56 misery due to junction 12 closure" Chester Chronicle Oct 12 - "M56 congestion chaos between Helsby and Runcorn ".
Runcorn & Widnes World Sep 26 - "Tomorrow's young engineers build their own bridge" L'pool Echo Sep 26 - "Halton mayor launches new civil engineering education facility at Widnes museum".
One reason for naming this machine 'Trinity' is that there are three foreign banks that are putting up the money - Macquarie Capital, BBGI, and FCC, though if anything goes wrong then the taxpayer has guaranteed that the banks can't lose - Runcorn & Widnes World Sep 22 - "Colossal Mersey Gateway bridge building machine is named" L'pool Echo Sep 22 - "Europe's longest bridge-building machine named as work starts on Mersey Gateway approach viaducts".
Art for tolls sake - L'pool Echo Sep 21 - "Mersey Gateway inspired arts initiative launched for Runcorn and Widnes primary schools" Runcorn & Widnes World Sep 19 - "Children's art project inspired by Mersey Gateway bridge".
September 17 - GATEWAY UPS AND DOWNS
Liverpool Echo Sep 17 - "Unemployment rises for adults overall in Halton but falls for 18-24 age group".
Echo readers who are told that the Gateway bridge has created 700 jobs may wonder why unemployment has actually increased. The main reason will be that most of the new (and temporary) jobs have not gone to people living in Halton. But the worst is yet to come, when the bridge opens the temporary jobs will have gone and the tolls will drive businesses away from the area.
September 17 - GATEWAY SPINS ON AND ON AND ON
Liverpool Echo Sep 17 - "Images capture latest developments as work continues on £600m Mersey Gateway project" Liverpool Echo Sep 17 - "Kier Group reaps improving economy with better revenues and profits" Liverpool Echo Sep 16 - "Bangladesh Army engineers learn about Mersey Gateway Bridge construction in Halton visit" Liverpool Echo Sep 10 - "Organisations across Runcorn and Widnes benefit from Mersey Gateway Project's expertise".
What would the local papers do without their regular doses from the Gateway dope pushers?
September 10 - GATEWAY SPIN
Runcorn & Widnes World Sep 8 - "Mersey Gateway project generates £44m and creates 700 jobs" Liverpool Echo Sep 8 - "Around 700 people employed through Mersey Gateway Project's first year in Halton". (The same PR handout appeared in various construction industry papers.)
A project that they say is costing 1.86 billion pounds and it has generated only £44m? And how many of the 700 jobs have gone to local people?
August 31 - MORE GATEWAY SPIN
Runcorn & Widnes World Aug 30 - "Search for volunteers to tell the story of Halton's new bridge".
It seems that having given millions to PR firms, they now expect members of the public to spin for free. We wonder how many people will volunteer?
Runcorn & Widnes World Aug 21 - "Transformed garden opens thanks to fundraising efforts".
Liverpool Echo Aug 11 - "Play area being built in Widnes courtesy of Mersey Gateway bridge team and suppliers".
From the billions of pounds that they are going to get in tolls, they could pay for these giveaways a thousand times over. But who will bear the cost in the end?
August 15 - "TRIPS TO VISIT THE FAMILY ACROSS NEW BRIDGE WILL TAKE A TOLL ON RELATIVES"
Rex Makin's Echo column on the 14th starts "In the 1970s, thousands of families packed their bags and headed off in the modern equivalent of the covered wagon, furniture removal vans, to seek new lives in the promised land of Runcorn New Town. Two generations on, there is still a lot of two-way travel between Runcorn and Liverpool as relatives make the same journey". Rex goes on to argue that people in all parts of Merseyside should not have to pay to cross the river between Runcorn and Widnes..
August 15 - THE GATEWAY JUNCTION THAT WASN'T TO BE, WILL BE
At the 2009 Public Inquiry, some opponents of the new bridge said that if it was to be built then there would have to be a new motorway junction to link up with the Central Expressway. The Council said that wasn't so, but now that work on the bridge has started they have announced a new junction - Liverpool Echo Aug 11 - "Government confirms M56 will be upgraded to 'smart motorway' with extra junction in Runcorn".
The bridge is being built in the wrong place, but given its location it is odd that they waited till after road works have started to announce a new junction which may make redundant much of the roadworks that they are already doing.
It is also odd that the Government say that the new junction and other works will "improve access from north Wales, Cheshire and Merseyside to Manchester Airport". The toll bridge was partly sold on the basis that it would encourage more traffic to use Liverpool Airport. It now seems that the bridge and the works now announced will have the opposite effect.
August 8 - BRING YOUR BUCKET AND SPADE
Runcorn & Widnes World Aug 5 - "History being made as concrete is poured into Mersey Gateway pylons" Liverpool Echo Aug 4 - "Work begins on building giant pylons for Mersey Gateway crossing" Construction Index Aug 3 - "Concrete pour starts for Mersey bridge pylons".
August 4 - MORE TRAFFIC DELAYS
Liverpool Echo Aug 3 - "Road closures in Widnes for Mersey Gateway project set to disrupt traffic" Runcorn & Widnes World Jul 31 - "New road closures and diversions at Ditton roundabout to pave way for Mersey Gateway".
July 16 - PAIN FOR NO GAIN
Liverpool Echo Jul 14 - "Motorists warned to expect disruption on major Runcorn route as work continues on new Mersey Gateway bridge".
July 16 - DRIVER GETS BLAME FOR GATEWAY ROADWORKS CRASH
Runcorn & Widnes World Jul 9 - "Lorry driver who ploughed LGV into car killing himself and other driver in Runcorn had taken speed and cannabis, inquest told".
July 16 - MECCANO SET FROM CHINA TO BUILD GATEWAY BRIDGE
Construction Engineer Jul 10 - "Mersey bridge assembles giant “Meccano” scaffolding" Runcorn & Widnes World Jul 8 - "Colossal 1,500 tonne machine shipped in to build new bridge".
Meccano used to be based at Binns Road, Liverpool, but this 'Meccano' machine was designed in Norway and engineered in China and is to be operated by the Portugese, so much for 'local' jobs.
July 9 - BUDGET FUDGE
There had been speculation that in yesterday's budget speech, the Chancellor would say something about tolls on the Mersey. What he did say made no mention of tolls, but there was something in one of the documents that was published yesterday HM Treasury - HC264 Summer Budget 2015 report (this is a very large pdf file). At bottom of section 5.5 'The Northern Powerhouse' it says -
"The government is looking at extending Mersey Gateway bridge toll discounts to residents of Chester West & Chester and Warrington, with final decisions to be made in early 2016. In addition, the government will work with relevant local partners carrying out a review of the tolls on the Mersey tunnels."
This statement falls far short of what was said during the election campaign and it looks as if the Tory Government and Labour Merseytravel will be collaborating to keep things as they are, with users of the Tunnels (and most users of the bridges at Runcorn) as their prey.
July 9 - PLEA FROM AMNESIAC THAT IS LIKELY TO FALL ON DEAF EARS
Liverpool Echo Jul 6 - "Mersey Gateway bridge: MP calls on government to extend free travel to residents across Merseyside".
Maria seems to have forgotten that Labour were as enthusiastic as the Tories to force the Gateway tolls scheme through.
She also seems to have forgotten that she backed increases in Mersey Tunnel tolls and that her sister was one of the main Merseytravel allies when they forced the 'Let's Turn The Tunnel Users Into Cash Cows' bill through parliament in 2004. Could it be that eagles are okay with bridges but avoid tunnels due to claustrophobia?
July 9 - GO SLOW
It seems that though the people in Halton may cross the new bridge faster, they will have to make up for it - Liverpool Echo Jul 1 - "20mph zones approved across Widnes and Runcorn neighbourhoods".
June 30 - HALTON ASKS CITY REGION FOR BRIDGE MONEY
Liverpool Echo Jun 24 - "Funding request over Runcorn-Widnes bridge's annual £2m maintenance cost could be made to city region". As the City Region is making a profit from Mersey Tunnel tolls this means that Tunnel tolls could be helping to pay for the Runcorn bridge.
June 30 - DON'T TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Liverpool Echo Jun 23 - "Deaths due to air pollution in urban areas such as Halton more than double the rate found in Outer Hebrides". Most of the traffic using the new bridge is to be routed down the Central Expressway, so this pollution is likely to get worse.
June 30 - MADE IN KOREA
Could it be that Samsung are supplying the bridge with TVs? -
Runcorn & Widnes World Jun 29 - "International VIPs visit Mersey Gateway" Liverpool Echo Jun 29 - "Korean ambassador to the UK visits Mersey Gateway project site".
June 30 - JAM TODAY, TOLLS TOMORROW
There is likely to be a long period during which traffic delays around Runcorn will get worse. But no problem as there will be a lot less traffic when the tolls start -
Runcorn & Widnes World Jun 18 - "Motorists warned of major new expressway diversions in Runcorn".
Anyway the Council are organising nature walks, and next on the agenda is swimming lessons for those who can't pay the tolls - Liverpool Echo Jun 21 - "Nature walk around Runcorn nature reserve proves popular".
June 10 - MORE GATEWAY SPIN
Liverpool Echo Jun 6 - "Mersey Gateway: Youngsters meet in middle of trestle bridge to mark completion of project milestone"
New Civil Engineer Jun 5 - "Mersey Gateway latest as design chief describes challenges".
May 31 - LOOKING AFTER THE BATS
At least the fish and the birds don't have to pay bridge tolls - New Civil Engineer May 28 - "A week in the life of an engineering ecologist".
May 31 - WARRINGTON COUNCIL ASK GEORGE ABOUT HIS NO BRIDGE TOLLS PROMISE
Warrington Guardian May 22 - "WBC await Government response over tolls on Mersey crossings as MP seeks 'clarification'".
There was also this letter on 21 May from a supporter of tolls - "Why should the crossing be free for Warrington residents?".
On the 30th the paper published our reply to the tolls supporter - "We are already paying for the new bridge - even without tolls".
May 22 - TEMPORARY BRIDGE BUILT!!!
More from the spin machine: Liverpool Echo May 22 "Major milestone for Mersey Gateway as trestle bridge meets in the middle" Runcorn & Widnes World May 7 "Trestle bridge over the Mersey is completed".
A pity that the papers only print the PR material and never ask any questions. Why are they not using a quick and cheap construction method for the real bridge? They could have built something like the Tay road bridge which is a very long bridge but with simple construction which cost less than £5 million to build 50 years ago.
The answer is possibly that it is because of Peel Holdings' Ship Canal, they need a high bridge so that the occasional vessel can pass under it. When the canal was built there was apparently a condition that there could be no bridge tolls charged for crossing it, so let's build a massive bridge over the Mersey pond and say that the toll is for that.
May 13 - PAIN FOR NO GAIN
Liverpool Echo May 11 - "Road closures bulletin for Mersey Gateway works in Runcorn and Widnes".
May 8 - ELECTION RESULT
Whether the Conservatives or Labour won nationally was not likely to make any difference to Tunnel tolls. What might have made a difference was who won the Merseyside constituencies. And the result on Merseyside was that voters returned all the sitting MPs, apart from the only one who might have done something about the tunnel tolls - Esther McVey who lost Wirral West to Labour by just over 400 votes (18,898 to 18,481).Wirral Globe May 8 "As David Cameron looks set to sweep victory, Esther Mcvey loses her seat in Wirral West" Liverpool Echo May 8 "Conservative Esther McVey loses Wirral West after bitter election battle with Labour".
It looks as if there is not a single MP on Merseyside who will take the slightest interest in the tolls, apart from possibly Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead.
We assume that George Osborne's promise about Tunnel tolls will be forgotten as there will be no one there to remind him. David Cameron's priority is likely to be giving more money and power to the Scots. In Scotland the SNP took 50 out of 59 seats. Half of those who voted did not vote for the SNP, so if there had been proportional representation the SNP would have got 20 less seats.
The situation with the planned bridge tolls at Runcorn is interesting because the Conservatives held on to the Weaver Vale constituency by just over 800 votes (20,227 to 19,421). The Conservatives also held on to the Warrington South seat. George Osborne had made a promise that all the people in Weaver Vale and Warrington would be exempt from the bridge tolls. We assume that this is a promise that will be kept: Runcorn & Widnes World May 8 "Graham Evans retains marginal Weaver Vale seat for Conservatives" Warrington Guardian May 8 "The final Election Bites view following a night of high drama".
May 7 - ELECTION DAY
Wirral Globe May 7 "LIVE: ELECTION RESULTS" Liverpool Echo May 7 "Election 2015 voting live: Liverpool goes to the polls" Wirral Globe May 7 "No clear winner as polling stations open" Liverpool Echo May 7 "General Election countdown over for Halton and key marginal battleground of Weaver Vale".
May 5 - VIEWS OF HALTON CANDIDATES
It seems that there is only one that is interested in the plan to toll the bridges: Liverpool Echo May 5 - "General Election 2015: Find out what Halton's candidates have to say for themselves".
May 4 - UKIP DEMONSTRATE AGAINST RUNCORN BRIDGE TOLLS
Liverpool Echo May 4 - "Ukip protests against bridge tolls at Runcorn-Widnes bridge".
May 1 - THE PENNY DROPS
Liverpool Echo Apr 30 - "String of business closures in Runcorn triggers suspicions that bridge tolls may already be having impact".
It is obvious that tolls will discourage people from visiting an area. Runcorn are on the 'wrong side of the tracks' so they are likely to be hardest hit.
April 29 - BATTLE IN CHESHIRE
Report from Phil McCann, the BBC's Cheshire political reporter: BBC Apr 22 - "The battle over bridge tolls for Cheshire residents".
Let's hope that this is not all forgotten after 7th May.
April 29 - PAIN FOR NO GAIN
Runcorn & Widnes World Apr 29 - "Motorists warned of bank holiday delays as major roadworks continue".
April 27 - LABOUR ATTACK TORY BRIDGE TOLLS PROMISE
Liverpool Echo Apr 27 - "Labour parliamentary candidate slams Chancellor's 'desperate' widened free Halton bridge tolls".
The Tweet that is referred to was on April 23, when George Osborne tweeted "Confirm we'll extend free bridge tolls to residents of Cheshire W & Chester + Warrington - a victory for Stephen Mosley (Tory candidate for Chester) & David Mowat (candidate for Warrington South).
In a BBC interview, the Chancellor made a similar promise for the Tunnel tolls, but this is not mentioned. Very odd if the Chancellor meant what he told the BBC.
April 26 - MORE ABOUT TOLLS REVIEW BY GEORGE OSBORNE
Last Thursday the Chancellor was interviewed by Phil McCann, the BBC's political correspondent for Cheshire. The Chancellor spoke about residents not paying tolls at Halton and continued: "I am confident we will be able to create a similar scheme for residents on the Wirral so that they don't have to pay the tolls."
Audio extract from the interview
April 25 - DRIVERS ENCOURAGED TO MAKE FREE ROUND TRIPS OVER THE RUNCORN BRIDGE
Repairs to a road bridge over the A557 Expressway are causing traffic travelling along the Expressway to be diverted over the bridge - and back again! Liverpool Echo Apr 24 - "Part of Runcorn expressway to close for 10 weeks for urgent bridge repairs".
April 25 - TWO STORIES THAT WE MISSED ON TOLLS AT RUNCORN
# Warrington Guardian Apr 8 - "Labour stance on tolls at Mersey bridges criticised following leader visit".
# Liverpool Echo Apr 6 - "Halton elections contender sets out maverick vision of creating more 'directly democratic' system ".
April 25 - MORE ON LABOUR 'PROMISE' ON BRIDGE TOLLS
Warrington Guardian Apr 24 - "Scrap the tolls" letter from Labour.
April 24 - DÉJÀ VU
There are reports that George Osborne has said that people who live in West Cheshire or Warrington won't have to pay the new tolls to cross the river at Runcorn - Liverpool Echo Apr 23 - "George Osborne pledges to scrap Halton bridge tolls for Warrington and Cheshire West residents" Runcorn & Widnes World Apr 23 - "Chancellor renews pledge for free tolls for Halton residents but says businesses must pay" Warrington Guardian Apr 24 - "Chancellor announces intention to remove tolls on Mersey crossings for Warrington drivers" with comments.
Oddly, the Tory candidate for Weaver Vale revealed most of this on his website a week ago "Graham Evans Secures Review of Tolls On Mersey Gateway & Silver Jubilee Bridge".
The later version of the story seems to be based on what was told to BBC reporter, Phil McCann Audioboom - "George Osborne bridge tolls interview". The Tunnel tolls are also mentioned in the interview.
April 24 - WEAVER VALE CANDIDATES GIVE THEIR VIEWS ON NEW TOLLS
The Chester Chronicle Apl 23 "Election 2015: Ask the Weaver Vale candidates" put questions to candidates, including "Is it fair that motorists in Weaver Vale have to pay to use certain roads, for example the Silver Jubilee and Mersey Gateway bridges?"
Graham Evans for Tories said "Way back in 2008, before I was elected, it was decided that tolls should be levied on both the new and existing bridges across the Mersey. I badgered and badgered the Transport Minister and the Chancellor to offer discounts, or make it free, for local residents. Last year we were successful in achieving free travel for Halton residents. But I’m not finished yet. The Chancellor has agreed to consider extending exemptions for residents in Cheshire West and Chester and, if I’m re-elected, I’ll be banging on the Chancellor’s door and calling for exemptions from the toll for all local residents."
Julia Tickridge for Labour said "No, which is why I was pleased to report on April 6 that, if Ed Miliband (right) becomes Prime Minister, Labour will pledge a formal review of the Mersey Gateway and Silver Jubilee Bridge Road tolls affecting motorists in Frodsham, Helsby and Northwich. It was only Labour that was listening to people’s concerns about the cost of tolls and the impact of congestion. Labour’s pledge has now forced the Tory candidate off the fence in blatant electioneering just prior to the General Election, following his consistent failure whilst in office, to get his own Tory Government to commit to a formal review of road tolls affecting the two-thirds of Weaver Vale in Cheshire West and Chester."
Amos Wright for UKIP said "It’s not fair at all, the motorist already pays through the nose. The tolls will add greatly to the costs of travel to people who use the bridges to get to work, visit family and access hospital services, many people from Frodsham and Helsby attend Warrington Hospital. It will also add terrible congestion to Warrington as people use that route to avoid tolls. Ukip are opposed to tolls and would scrap them, along with hospital car parking charges."
Lib Dems said "I am a supporter of the investment in the new Mersey Gateway, which will improve journeys, cut travel time and result in less fuel being burned and lower emissions due to less congestion. It makes sense to send through-traffic across the new bridge and to reserve the other crossing for local traffic, cyclists and pedestrians.
I don’t have a problem with having a toll charged for cars and lorries, with free access to the bridge for blue badge holders, cyclists and pedestrians. I would, however, as the local MP, negotiate a reduced toll for all Weaver Vale residents so that this is an affordable option as well as a convenient improvement to the road system."
Greens said "It doesn’t seem fair that Weaver Vale residents will have to pay for the use of the bridges, especially when no other convenient transport options exist. It seems like the new bridge is a Government vanity project that local people may end up paying for. Investment in public transport and cycling infrastructure would be a better way of reducing congestion before opening a new bridge."
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition said "NO. I was highly involved in the NO TOLLS campaign, fighting against both Labour and the Conservatives who wanted tolls for all. Sadly we ended up with a halfway house with no tolls for Halton residents as people outside Halton (ie. Frodsham, Northwich, Chester etc) would not sign the petition."
We think that the Lib Dems deserve a prize for admitting that they are like jihadists when it comes to supporting tolls. As for the others, where were they when the toll plans were pushing pushed through?
April 20 - ONE OF THE BACKERS FOR THE 'GATEWAY' SCHEME IS PULLING OUT OF INFRASTRUCTURE
FT Apr 19 - "Rothesay to reduce investments in UK infrastructure".
The story says that "The group was a lead investor in the first publicly-issued bond backed by guarantee, which is funding the Mersey Gateway, a six-lane toll bridge being constructed near Liverpool." It also says that the group are cutting back because "Unfortunately that pipeline hasn’t materialised to the noise and puff that was rumoured". This seems to imply that the financing was largely a smokescreen designed to mask the fact that the private toll bridge would not have gone ahead if the Government had not come up with a scheme where they took the risks rather than the private sector. And of course it would not have gone ahead if the existing free public bridge was not being tolled as part of the scheme.
April 20 - MORE FROM THE GATEWAY SPIN MACHINE
Runcorn & Widnes World Apr 20 - "Community groups invited to bid for free consultancy services".
This puff is about "thousands of pounds worth of free consultancy services". Strange that the news media never mention the billion pounds in tolls that drivers will have to pay.
April 19 - LABOUR 'PROMISE'
The Labour candidate for Weaver Vale says that her party will 'review' the tolls for crossing at Runcorn - Chester Chronicle Apr 8 - "Weaver Vale election battle hots up as Labour pledges to review bridge tolls".
While the Tory candidate for Weaver Vale says that this is a "frankly useless" pledge, an "empty, groundless promise" and "blatant electioneering" - Liverpool Echo Apr 9 - "Tories dismiss 'frankly useless' Labour pledge to review tolls on Runcorn-Widnes bridges".
April 19 - A WOODY STORY
Liverpool Echo Apr 14 - "250 tons of woodchip from Mersey Gateway tree clearance works used as fuel in biomass power plant".
It seems that it is green to chop down thousands of trees to build a bridge for the banksters and politicians who want to take more money from drivers, providing that the wood is then transported half way across the world to be burnt.
Why did the Echo need a Freedom of Information request for this story? The Gateway PR team would happily have provided this spin.
April 18 - PAIN FOR NO GAIN
Gateway work causing more traffic disruption - Liverpool Echo Apr 14 - "Motorists warned of northbound Ditton Flyover closure in Widnes for two days" Liverpool Echo Apr 8 - "Motorists told to watch their speed on Runcorn highways as bridge works ramped up" Runcorn and Widnes World Apr 8 - "Drivers warned of new diversions on Runcorn's Expressways".
April 18 - ... THE TOLL JOKE AND NOTHING BUT A JOKE
Ed Milliband pledges to review the tolls on the bridges at Runcorn - Runcorn and Widnes World April 7 - "Eddie Izzard surprises Runcorn residents".
April 7 - WARRINGTON CONFIRMS ITS OPPOSITION TO RUNCORN TOLLS
Warrington Guardian Mar 31 - "Motions to scrap tolls and review budget passed at council meeting".
April 7 - DEAL OF THE YEAR
Europe's banksters say that the Runcorn toll scheme is deal of the year, or should that be 'steal'? - Premier Construction Apr 1 - "Merseylink consortium welcomes awards success".
March 30 - MORE ON WARRINGTON OPPOSITION TO MERSEY TOLLS
Warrington Guardian Mar 30 - "Two parish councils boost campaign to scrap tolls on Mersey bridges".
March 30 - ROBBER BARON VISITS RUNCORN
Liverpool Echo Mar 27 - "Chancellor tours Runcorn haulage hub".
March 30 - WHAT, NO GAOL?
Runcorn and Widnes Weekly News Mar 23 - "Persistent toll dodgers on Mersey Gateway and Runcorn-Widnes bridges could have vehicles seized".
March 30 - DIRT ON ROADS
Runcorn and Widnes World letter Mar 18 - "Heaps of soil piled up at side of expressway".
If people knew what toxic chemicals might be buried under part of the site, they might be worried about more than dirt.
March 21 - WHAT JOBS?
Halton Council refuse to say how many Gateway construction jobs have gone to locals - Runcorn and Widnes Evening News Mar 16 - "Tenants rights chief casts doubt on Mersey Gateway job creation and public transport boost claims in Runcorn".
Of course this information is "confidential", they can always find an excuse to keep the public from knowing anything that is going to damage the illusion that their PR machine has spent millions creating.
Michael Gelling who was asking the question is one of the few Halton people who spoke at the 2009 Public Inquiry. Apart from the effect of tolls on community groups and others, his main worry was the routing of traffic through the "heart" of Runcorn.
March 21 - PAIN FOR NO GAIN
Gateway work causing more traffic disruption - Runcorn and Widnes Evening News Mar 17 - "Runcorn expressway route to shut for 18 months for Mersey Gateway bridge works" Runcorn and Widnes World Mar 16 - "Delays and disruption expected as major Runcorn expressway route closes for 18 months". The stories are almost identical, but readers' comments on the delays are different
March 21 - NICE CARTOON, BUT PHONY PETITION
Warrington Guardian letter Mar 10 - "Get rid of road tolls".
This scam was dreamed up under a Labour Government, so it is bizarre that a link which is supposedly for a petition against the tolls takes you to a Labour Party site
(The cartoon is by Paul Thomas from this Daily Express story.)
March 19 - MORE ON GO DIRECTLY TO GAOL
Halton Council is expected to approve draconian powers against those who fail to pay the tolls - Liverool Echo Mar 19 - "Plans for new enforcement powers for Mersey Gateway Bridge" also see comments.
March 19 - MPs IGNORE OPPOSITION TO TOLLS AND CALL FOR A BIGGER STICK TO BEAT THOSE WHO DON'T PAY
On the 17th the Transport Committee of MPs (from all the main parties) published a report on 'Strategic River Crossings' - Parliament page which includes link to the report.
They had called for evidence which included the question of whether river crossings should be tolled.
But in its report the committee completely ignored the evidence against tolling. Instead the committee want new crossings to be provided by the private sector and to be tolled. The committee is also calling for stronger measures against drivers who fail to pay at crossings where there are no barriers, such as at Dartford.
National Alliance Against Tolls evidence to the Committee.
Supplementary evidence from National Alliance Against Tolls after it became clear that the Committee were ignoring opponents of tolls.
March 16 - GO DIRECTLY TO GAOL
Halton Council meets on Wednesday 18th to approve more draconian powers against those who fail to pay the tolls - Halton Council Mar 18 - "Mersey Gateway Bridge –
Proposed River Mersey (Mersey Gateway Bridge)(Modification) Order and Proposed Mersey
Gateway Bridge and the A533 (silver Jubilee Bridge) Road User Charging Scheme Order".
Up to now they had been intending to use different tolling powers for the Gateway bridge as against the Silver Jubilee. For the old bridge they were going to use Transport Act 2000 powers as amended. Those powers can be used to toll ANY road.
For the new bridge they were going to use Transport and Works Act 1992 powers - though we argued at the Public Inquiry that this Act did not relate to bridges and therefore what they were doing was illegal. The law of course generally does not matter to them, but it seems that they must now have decided that they will have bigger penalty powers under a Transport Act 2000 tolling regime.
It is the Transport Act 2000 which empowers the tolling at Dartford, because the original tolling power ceased in 2003 when all the costs had been paid off.
Dartford went barrierless on 1st December 2013, using a similar system to what they will use at Halton. There has been a high non-payment rate. As at 26 February, 10% of the journeys made in December had still not been paid for.
Our guess is that Halton has realised that it wants as strong powers as possible on the Gateway bridge as well as the Silver Jubilee.
March 14 - MORE JOIN IN OPPOSITION AT WARRINGTON
Warrington World Mar 11 - "NHS Trust backs council's campaign against 'potentially disastrous' Mersey bridges tolls".
March 14 - ANOTHER STORY FROM THE SPIN MACHINE
Runcorn and Widnes Evening News Mar 7 - "Budding civil engineers learn how to build bridges with Mersey Gateway team in Runcorn".
March 6 - GATEWAY STORY THAT SLIPPED BY THE CENSORS
Runcorn and Widnes World Mar 4 - "Companies fear tolls could drive them out of business".
Well done to the Chamber of Commerce for sticking up for business despite the power that the Council wields. A pity that half the story is taken up by a defence from the toll enforcers who usually get their say with their opponents ignored or gagged.
March 6 - MORE STORIES FROM THE GATEWAY PR MACHINE
Runcorn and Widnes World Mar 6 - "Apprentices recruited for iconic Mersey Gateway project", not in the Weekly News - yet
How about some statistics showing what proportion of those working on the scheme are local, and what proportion of those who are earning the big money are local. Don't hold your breath waiting for any real figures, as all you will get in the 'news' papers is more hype.
Runcorn and Widnes Weekly News Mar 2 - "Mersey Gateway finance deal wins two international awards", as usual the World carries the same story, fresh from the pens of Halton Council's hacks
The lawyers, consultants and PR people are the ones that should get an award, for fooling the public into thinking that this crazy scheme is a good idea. Though perhaps a few million in the bank is better than a bit of ribbon or a plastic cup.
Liverpool Echo Mar 3 - "New road closures due to Mersey Gateway Project "
Even when announcing more road closures the Echo has to say "The Mersey Gateway has been identified as one of the UK government’s Top 40 priority projects in the National Infrastructure Plan." No wonder it's a priority as nowhere else would be daft enough to accept the tolling of the Runcorn bridge.
Best of this week's bunch of PR stories? Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News Feb 28 - "Runcorn student gives up school holidays for Mersey Gateway work experience"
February 26 - WARRINGTON AGAINST MERSEYTOLLS
Warrington Guardian Feb 26 - "Businesses back council's campaign against 'disastrous' tolls at Mersey bridges"
Are these some of the businesses that the 2009 Public Inquiry was told backed the tolled bridges plan?
Even though it is election time, it is welcome that some of the politicians are saying that they oppose tolls. But what will they do after May?
A Local Tory MP says "I have .. been successfully lobbying for two new bridges in Warrington, which, as well as providing a solution to this problem, will benefit many more commuters in the town." It was of course his own government that created "this problem" when it approved and financially backed the plan to toll the Mersey, including the Silver Jubilee bridge at Runcorn.
February 26 - BUILDERS WANTED
Runcorn and Widnes World Feb 24 - "Skilled professionals wanted to build iconic Mersey Gateway" (The Weekly News did not print their version till the 1st March. Perhaps their copy of the story got lost in the mail.)
So the trolls need "civil engineers, quantity surveyors, planners"? Seems a bit late. And why are we being told that this bridge over the Mersey mud is a "£1.86 billion .. project" and is "one of the biggest civil engineering projects in Europe"? Does it really cost that much to build a bridge that is aimed at reducing cross river traffic? Would it not have been cheaper to just put 'NO ENTRY' signs at both ends of the Silver Jubilee bridge?
On the question of the cost of the bridge, perhaps the PR people ought to get together and arrange a consistent story. The following day the Echo reported that the cost was "£450 million" - Feb 25 - "Growing order book gives Kier confidence for future "
February 26 - NO DRIVING
Liverpool Echo Feb 24 - "Mersey Gateway project causes road closures"
"The benefits the project will bring to the region include over 4,000 permanent ..jobs". Seems like another presumably free advert placed by Halton Council for the naive public to fall for.
February 26 - NO RUNNING
Runcorn and Widnes Weekly News Feb 23 - "Run The Bridge race cancelled due to Mersey Gateway work"
Strange that building a new bridge means that you cancel a run on the old bridge. It also does not fit in with what the Trolls do with the Mersey Tunnels which they would close even if it was only for an egg and spoon race.
February 21 - LETTER THAT WE SENT TO HALTON COUNCILLORS
This letter was sent to Halton councillors on the 20th. It raises Halton Council's involvement with the Mersey Tunnels tolls, and asks whether councillors were aware that the traffic will plummet once there are tolls on the bridges with their "KEEP AWAY FROM HALTON" signs.
February 19 - PLUG FOR 'GATEWAY' TROLLS
Runcorn and Widnes World Feb 19 - "Mersey Gateway experts share their knowledge and skills with Halton students". Oddly this story is not in the News.
February 12 - MORE PARTY POLITICS
Warrington Guardian 12 Feb - "Council leader warning over bridge plans and claims town's MP has 'failed'".
The Labour Leader of Warrington Council is mainly complaining about whether a new untolled bridge due to open at Warrington in 1923 has had the final go-ahead and who should claim the credit. But he also says "The Mersey Gateway is due to open in 2017, so what are we going to get between 2017 and 2023? (The local Tory MP) should have been lobbying this Government to take tolls off the bridge at the Mersey Gateway for Warrington residents and he has failed. I think whichever MP in Warrington South comes in, they should campaign vigorously and strongly to the next Government to take tolls off the bridge...".
At the Public Inquiry in 2009, Warrington had a chance to fight the tolls on the 'Gateway' bridge, but they did not as they were 'promised' money to try and cope with the increased traffic due to vehicles avoiding the tolls at Runcorn. At the time, Warrington was run by a coalition of Lib Dems and Tories, but there is no sign that Labour would have been any better.
February 11 - AFTER CHILDREN, WHAT NEXT?
The papers are again publishing PR releases from the toll masters as if it was real news - Runcorn & Widnes World 11 Feb - "Children open new Mersey Gateway visitor centre", as usual there is the same 'story' in the Runcorn and Widnes Weekly News.
Can we suggest for the next PR release a picture with someone from the scheme stroking a dog or planting some trees, or have they already done that one?
February 9 - LABOUR COUNCIL AND TORY GOVERNMENT FIND NOVEL WAY TO PROVIDE "PRIVATE" FINANCE
Not new really as we already knew that Councils and Governments will do anything to help the banksters and extort more money out of drivers. But it may still surprise some that Halton Council is borrowing money to help pay for the 'privately financed' toll bridges - Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News 9 Feb - "Halton Council debt to rocket by £113m after Mersey Gateway loan taken out to make most of low rates".
Though this £100 million is small change compared with the £470 million that the Government is putting into this private project. A project which when it was not private and not tolled was estimated to cost only £200 million and to open in 2008!
February 9 - VE 'AVE VEYS OF MAKING YOU PAY
The planned tolls on the bridges at Runcorn will have no barriers, and there will be big penalties for anyone who fails to pay. Halton Council today (9th Feb) started a consultation on the plan to have penalties that start at twenty pounds, but could end up being a LOT more.
Most users of the Tunnels are unlikely to be directly affected by this. BUT even if you are not, please consider replying to this as they will bring these penalties in for the Tunnels at some point.
February 2 and 3 - POLICE BACK THE TROLLS
Liverppool Echo 2 Feb - "Mersey Gateway: Striking police helicopter photograph shows work progressing on £600m project" Runcorn Weekly News 3 Feb - "Police helicopter captures image of temporary bridge structure between Widnes and Runcorn ".
Would these be the same police who at the 2009 Public Inquiry backed this tolls scheme?
Are they really building a 'temporary' bridge so that they can build a bridge?
January - MORE ON PLANS FOR ANOTHER (TOLL FREE) CROSSING AT WARRINGTON
Warrington Guardian 29 Jan - "Green light for high level crossing over Manchester Ship Canal".
January - HALTON COUNCIL TREATS RESIDENTS AS FOOLS
Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News 28 Jan - "Protesters demand tighter air pollution monitoring in Runcorn and Widnes ".
Incinerators push a lot of lethal stuff into the air and you won't catch an MP living anywhere near one. But what well paid PR hack came up with - “Road traffic, particularly on the A557 (Weston Point Expressway), contributes more to concentrations at worst-case locations than industry. The opening of the Mersey Gateway is expected to dramatically reduce traffic on the A557 and thus improve air quality for residents.”. The traffic on the Weston Expressway will indeed go down, but that is because the scheme is designed to force most of the traffic to go down the Central Expressway - which goes through the heart of Runcorn.
January - YOUR LOCAL TROLLS NEED YOU
Runcorn & Widnes World 22 Jan - "Mersey Gateway volunteer encourages residents to learn about the new bridge and the borough's history".
January - WARRINGTON COUNCILLORS BLAME PM FOR TOLLS ON CROSSINGS AT RUNCORN
Warrington Guardian 14 Jan - "Council hits back at Prime Minister after claims surrounding town's growth".
Someone has started a so called "petition" against the tolls - Warrington Guardian letter 29 Jan - "Please sign online petition to get the tolls scrapped!".
The petition is no more than a Labour party stunt and though the Tories and Lib Dems back the tolls plot it was hatched under Labour.
January - GATEWAY SPIN 2015 - Part 2 -
The local papers continue to print the press releases as 'news', even using the pictures as handed to them -
Liverpool Echo 11 January - 'Good news for Liverpool drivers! Road works on Mersey Gateway bridge switch to nights'. Identical story in Runcorn World and Runcorn News.
Runcorn & Widnes World 5 January - 'Trees felled for Mersey Gateway bridge replanted in peace garden'. Identical story in the News.
January - "CROSSING THE MERSEY LINE" -
Letter from Sailing Club in Warrington Guardian 7 January.
January - MOTORWAY MADNESS -
Chester Chronicle 6 January - 'Highways Agency say they will take action 'when appropriate' on M56 crash spot at Frodsham'.
The M56 in this area is already congested. The problems would have been a bit less if any new crossing was to be built to the west of the existing crossing and link into a junction west of Junction 12. Instead the new bridge is being built to the east and any new junction will be to the east of Junction 12. It is doubtful that any action by the Highways Agency will overcome the effect of these bad decisions.
January - SPIN MACHINE 2015 - Part 1 -
Liverpool Echo 3 January - 'Mersey Gateway progress revealed in pictures'.
One comment says "... the old bridge is also to be 'Tolled' as a way of ensuring the Pirates building the new bridge can rip the public off for any amount they want - the only way to avoid this rip-off is to use the tunnels instead...Oh .. hang on..."
December - MORE ON THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME - SOME DRIVERS DEFY THE TROLLS - We reported at the beginning of the month that the Government had introduced 'cashless' tolls at the Dartford Crossing. It seems that there are more brave people than we thought, as about 15,000 drivers a day are not paying - BBC 30 December - 'Dartford Crossing: 15% of drivers failed to pay'.
December - SPIN MACHINE FOR THE TOLL BRIDGES BUSY AT END OF THIS MONTH -
The local papers must be sick from regurgitating as 'news' so many of the press releases from the troll factory -
Liverpool Echo 31 December - 'Mersey Gateway Bridge work to cause delays for drivers'.
Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News 30 December - 'Crossrail boss recruited as director for £1.86bn Mersey Gateway bridge project'.Identical story in the World.
Runcorn & Widnes World 26 December - 'Best friends land jobs with Mersey Gateway project'. Identical story in the News.
Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News 24 December - 'Mersey Gateway bridge works to intensify in Runcorn and Widnes in January'. Identical story in the World.
Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News 23 December - 'Halton residents gain construction skills through Merseylink training course' Identical story in the World.
Runcorn & Widnes World 22 December - 'The Merseylink project treats children and pensioners to Christmas parties'. £1,000 is cheap publicity for a scheme that aims to take billions in tolls from drivers.
December - TROLLS CHOP MORE TREES -
Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News 11 December - 'Runcorn dad furious after trees protecting home from expressway traffic cleared for Mersey Gateway roadworks '.
December - 12 PENCE TOLL IS 12 PENCE TOO MUCH - There is another toll 20 miles upriver from Liverpool which also causes problems - Runcorn & Widnes World 1 December - letter '12p toll bridge makes traffic problems worse'.
This toll is nominally a toll to cross the Mersey even though at this point you could cross the Mersey in one step. This oddity is so that Peel Holdings (who own the canal and a large part of Merseyside) can get more money, as apparently the law that gave the power to build the canal said that there could be no tolls charged on any crossing.
November - NO TOLLS PARTY PROTESTS AGAINST THE NEW MERSEY TOLLS -
In March, UKIP had a protest against the tolls at the Mersey Tunnels and elsewhere, they have now protested against the planned tolls on the Runcorn - Widnes bridges.
Runcorn & Widnes World 1 December - 'UKIP mount bridge protest branding tolls 'highway robbery'' Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News 28 November - 'Ukip brands road tolls as 'highway robbery' in Runcorn-Widnes bridge protest'.
November - 'PROGRESS' ON THE NEW MERSEY TOLLS BARRIER -
Liverpool Echo 29 November - 'Residents fears for homes near Mersey Gateway bridge' - it is not clear why this is news now as the Mersey trolls have been chopping trees down since last year - even before the contract was signed!!
Runcorn & Widnes World 27 November - 'Mersey Gateway roadworks to close slip road at Ditton junction for five months' Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News 28 November - 'Ditton Roundabout to Speke Road slip road in Widnes to shut this Tuesday for five months'. This story includes a comment from one woman that her daily journey time has gone up to four hours because of various roadworks. On the 28th the Liverpool Echo had in their print edition a big story "Roads to shut as new bridge works gather pace" that did not get into their web pages. At least by not putting it on the web, Halton Council avoided any adverse comments!
Runcorn & Widnes World 27 November - 'Talk on Mersey Gateway' Runcorn & Widnes World 18 November - 'Halton drivers warned of road closures as work progresses on Mersey Gateway'.
October - GET LOST David Cameron visited the O2 call centre in Runcorn and was asked about tolls on the bridges. He said "We're always happy to consider issues but at the end of the day we do need to fund the bridge from a mixture of taxpayers' money and toll money and that's the way the investment is going ahead." Liverpool Echo 30 October - "David Cameron quizzed by Runcorn call centre workers" Warrington Guardian 30 October - "Prime Minister talks taxes and tolls during Preston Brook visit" (video has nothing on tolls).
October - MUSICAL CHAIRS Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News 20 October - "Move to appoint Halton Council chief executive to Mersey Gateway Crossings Board approved" Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News 7 October - "Reshuffle at Mersey Gateway Crossings Board".
October - MORE TOLLS PLANNED UP RIVER? Warrington Guardian 3 October - Letter "No blame on the PM".
September - PLANS FOR ANOTHER CROSSING AT WARRINGTON Unlike the Tunnels or the bridges at Runcorn this will apparently be toll free - Warrington Guardian 11 Sep - "Cautious optimism for new river crossing plans" Warrington Guardian 4 Sep - "Warrington's £126million plan to solve town's traffic nightmare".
Though this plan is difficult to square with an earlier story which referred to a new bridge Warrington Guardian 8 Jul - "£5m town centre Mersey bridge boost".
August - SOME MORE ON HALTON RESIDENTS TO GO FREE - There has been no further publicity on this, showing that Merseytravel and their allies in the Government have succeeded keeping people in the dark. It remains to be seen whether the establishment is able to keep this up permanently. Meanwhile this is what was said on Radio Merseyside immediately after the official announcement (mp3 file), the clip includes George Osborne imitating Pontius Pilate
July - MORE ON HALTON RESIDENTS TO GO FREE - The penny has dropped that it was not a coincidence that the trolls announced that there would be no tolls for Halton residents on the same day that there was mania on Merseyside about the French 'Giants'. This would have been a distraction anyway but it seems as if Radio Merseyside made sure that the near hysteria was whipped up to benefit their Merseytravel mates and distract attention from what was happening with the tolls.
According to John Brace's Wirral blog, the Merseytravel members who were meeting the same day (another coincidence???) had a good laugh about it -
"Merseytravel discuss the Open Golf & free trips over the Silver Jubilee & Mersey Gateway bridges for Halton people".
There is one paper that is not joining in the conspiracy to hide this - Wirral Globe 28 July - "Should Wirral people be given free use of Mersey Tunnels?".
Comments on this story include suggestions that demonstrations will never work and what is needed is direct action. But who will volunteer to be first to lead the charge on the Merseytravel Bastille which is defended by their private police force? A force paid for out of tolls.
July - HALTON RESIDENTS TO GO FREE - On Friday 25th George Osborne came to Runcorn to announce that Halton residents will not have to pay tolls to cross the existing (Silver Jubilee) and planned (Mersey Gateway) bridges between Widnes and Runcorn. The announcement came out of the blue, but has followed a campaign which only started about 2 months ago and has snowballed.
You can see more here - NO Tolls - Runcorn page and here - Halton Against Tolls - Facebook group.
This was the reaction from some of those campaigning against the tolls - Runcorn and Widnes Weekly News - "Tolls campaigners react to chancellor's announcement".
The Chancellor was asked about the Mersey Tunnels and said that it was nothing to do with him.
Both the BBC and the Liverpool Echo (who have both long been supporters for tolling the bridges at Runcorn) ignored our press release (on No Tolls Runcorn link above) and avoided any mention of the Mersey Tunnels tolls. The BBC went so far as to say that the Tunnels were a completely different situation.
What is different is that the people of Runcorn and Widnes at last woke up and did something, and scared the politicians.
Most people elsewhere in our region seem to be unconscious of the unfairness of the Tunnel tolls and of the traffic delays caused by the tolls and the harm that they do to the economy. We are not sure whether the apathy is due to the failure of the MTUA or the way that the news media ignore the issue 99% of the time while the authorities and the news media keep people distracted with various entertainments.
July - CLOSED AGAIN - The Birkenhead Tunnel was closed over four days as the French 'Giants' paraded round the streets of Liverpool
To add to the fun for drivers the trolls also picked the same weekend to carry out work in connection with the new Runcorn toll bridge at the Weston Link roundabout and Junction 12 of the M56. The combination of this with the Birkenhead Tunnel closure will cause massive congestion and frustration for drivers - just what the authorities want - and as an added bonus very few drivers would have realised what was going on.
Letter in Runcorn & Widnes World 23 July - "Madness to close junction 12".
May - START OF WORK ON BUILDING A TOLL BARRIER TO DIVIDE THE REGION -
The news media are fond of showing pretty pictures of the new bridge at Runcorn - even though most of them were plastered over the press long before anyone knew what the bridge would really look like.
For a change this picture of a bridge is not of the tolled one at Runcorn, it is a picture of another already under construction in Scotland - which will not be tolled.
Liverpool Echo 7 May - 'Work starts on £1.75bn Mersey Gateway bridge'.
Like most of what the news media print about this scheme, the cost figure is misleading.
The actual construction cost of the bridge is probably going to be more like a third of the figure quoted. The figure that will run into the billions is the amount which drivers will have to pay at what is currently an untolled crossing.
On top of the money to be forced from drivers, the Government have already given about 100 million pounds to this scheme and have promised about another 600 million pounds in grants and loan guarantees. All this for a scheme which, without tolls, could have been built years ago and at a cost far less than the money that the politicians have promised to their troll friends.
Between the Public Inquiry in the summer of 2009, and the start of the scheme five years later in the summer of 2014, though there were stories about the scheme, most of whatever was happening was behind the scenes. The reason that it took so long is that the scheme that the polticians agreed in 2009 was a non starter as no firm would take on the risks of a tolled bridge. It took five years to come up with a plan where the public sector took the risks for this private scheme.
You can see what happened up to July 2009 here.
A/cs from 1934