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Runcorn Bridge: tolls order already in place

by Chris Johnson. Published Mon 02 Feb 2009 12:06
The Silver Jubilee Bridge
The Silver Jubilee Bridge

Council chiefs are being condemned for issuing a tolling order on the existing Runcorn Bridge before the start of an inquiry into plans for a new River Mersey crossing.

In a low-key move Halton Council issued a Road Charging Order in December enabling it to impose tolls on the bridge - a move that is the first of its kind ever seen in the UK.

Never before has any bridge constructed with public money been made the subject of a tolling order AFTER it was built.

But the council has been criticised over the development, both by anti-tolls campaigners and a leading councillor from a neighbouring authority.

The "Silver Jubilee Bridge (A533) Road User Charging Scheme" sets the toll at up to £2.50 for cars and up to £10 for lorries . Motorcycles could also pay up to £2.50 under the provisions of the order.

Halton announced over a year ago that they wanted to go ahead with the building the Mersey Gateway bridge at Runcorn despite the fact that the Department of Transport said it would have to be financed by tolls.

The revised scheme also includes a provision for tolling the Jubilee Bridge, but the entire scheme is to be the subject a Public Inquiry by an independent inspector and opponents are lining-up to challenge the proposals.

Warrington Lib/Dem Councillor Jo Crotty expressed 'deep concern' that Halton Council had imposed the Charging Order on the Runcorn Bridge.

Cllr Crotty said: "Imposing tolls on a new bridge and the existing bridge will mean less traffic crossing the river at Runcorn.

"There is a very real need for a new bridge at Runcorn but imposing tolls makes no sense at all because it will actually create horrendous congestion in Warrington town-centre and increase traffic on the M6 at Thelwall.

"We have seen what has happened with the M6 Toll where HGVs simply do use it because of the cost. The same would happen with tolls at Runcorn and we would see lorries thundering through Warrington town centre.

"The Government should underwrite the building of a new Runcorn bridge from the public purse. It would create thousands of jobs and be a boost to the region's economy.

"The cost of building the new bridge keeps increasing and yet Halton has gone ahead with a Charging Order on the existing bridge before the Public Inquiry is even convened. This is a cause for deep concern.

"It is also amazing that not a single one of the Labour Maps in the North West have raised a word of protest about these damaging plan for tolls at Runcorn, but I will fight the scheme all the way.

"Halton Council should take stock of the current economic climate, forget the idea of imposing tolls and fight on for their original idea of a new, toll-free Mersey Gateway."

The Mersey Tunnel Users Association (MTUA), one of the groups that have registered official objections to the Mersey Gateway scheme, also condemned the Charging Order imposed on the Silver Jubilee Bridge.

John McGoldrick, Secretary of the MTUA said: "The Runcorn Bridge was paid for by the Government and the ratepayers of Cheshire and Lancashire and it is fundamentally wrong for a toll to be imposed on it.

"It would be the first time in Britain that there has been a toll imposed on an existing bridge that is part of the national road network.

"Halton Council has jumped the gun by issuing this Draft Order for the tolling of the existing bridge, with little or no consultation on this specific matter.

"Tolls at Runcorn would severely damage the economy over a wide area. Halton's own reports show that the two tolled crossings would carry less traffic than the existing un-tolled bridge.

"The Government takes fifty billion pounds a year from drivers, and it seems that they have an unlimited amount of money to bail out the bankers and others, but little or nothing to provide for an adequate roads system.

"The laughable thing is that the old and the new bridges are intended to be operated by a private "concessionaire" who will, no doubt, be borrowing from the very banks that are being funded by the taxpayer.

"But this latest Road Charging Order means that they could toll the existing bridge and not bother to build a new bridge.

"That would be completely wrong and impractical because there would be huge congestion caused by collecting tolls which itself impedes the flow of traffic."

The preamble to the Road Charging Scheme says it is being imposed because it "appears expedient" to create the order now.

But when the Public Relations Department at Halton Borough Council was asked about Charging Order its spokesman was at first unaware of its existence.

The spokesman was asked how the public can know that tolls will not be implemented on the Jubilee Bride even if the Mersey Gateway is not built.

After hurried consultations the spokesman said: "We wouldn't do that. The plan is to eventually toll both crossings.

"We have put through this Charging Order as a purely administrative matter. It is just part of the way the time-scale for the scheme is operating."





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"If that river was called the thames we wood have a dozen bridges over it all free." george holman, runcorn around 12 months ago

"If tools are put on runcorn bridge i will be using manchester airport for my travel." mac, north wales around 1 year, 1 month ago

"They can bail out the banks with our money but not fund a bridge! its ridiculous but this is England!" Stuart, Liverpool around 4 years, 4 months ago

"Also they dont look after the one theyve got. Its rusting away. They are just after the contracts for the backhanders (AGAIN)" Chris, Runcorn around 4 years, 7 months ago

"Typical of Halton council. They take huge backhanders of inos chlor for an incentrator then tax us to death for a bridge we dont need" Chris, Runcorn around 4 years, 7 months ago

"nice one Halton Council put a toll on the Bridge and make me shop in the traford center it will shut the town down " paul pennington, st helens around 4 years, 8 months ago

"bang out of order Halton! This is why we need politics independent of party lines Shame on you Labour another stealth tax imposed on people" Si, merseyside around 5 years, 2 months ago

"This is so wrong. Like buying out land and businesses before inquiry,then telling us we have to pay for from CTax that if bridge plan fails!" Lynne McCarrick, Runcorn around 5 years, 2 months ago

 
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