MIKE Amesbury MP has called on the government to listen the warnings of business leaders over the potential economic damage from impending Mersey bridge tolls.
The call comes as the number of vehicles registered for discounted crossings has reached 50,000, with more being signed up every day.
The MP for Weaver Vale recently held a meeting with Philip Cox, chief executive of Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), where they discussed business and economic issues impacting the constituency.
Among the issues raised was tolling on the Mersey Gateway and Silver Jubilee crossings, which Mr Cox said was a huge concern to his members.
The LEP has previously written to Christ Grayling at the Department for Transport expressing its disappointment at the government’s decision to backtrack on a previous promise by then Chancellor George Osborne in 2015 to fund free tolls for residents of Cheshire West and Chester and Warrington.
The letter said: “Over 30,000 people a day travel between C&W and Liverpool and Halton and they are vital to the success of both our economy and theirs. Even though regular users will be able to apply for monthly passes this would still equate to an additional £1,080 a year per vehicle for peak travel, which is a significant hit for the daily commuter, and particularly those families who are just about managing.”
According to figures released in a previous study into tolling by Mott McDonald, it would cost the government only an extra £5.8 million a year to fund free tolls for Cheshire West and Chester and Warrington residents.
Mr Cox said that even a 0.5% drop in productivity from those 30,000 people a day – such as changing jobs – would equate to more than that £5.8m figure.
Mr Amesbury said: “Business has spoken loud and clear – it does not want tolls on these crossings.
“The £5.8m a year it would save the government to subsidise tolls would be more than lost by the damage inflicted on our local economy.
“In fact, when the government announced plans to scrap tolls on the Severn Crossing, Alun Cairns – the Conservative Secretary of State for Wales - said it would provide an economic boost for Wales – so the government knows what kind of impact these tolls have.”
He added: “The government needs to think again – we are not asking for something new, we are asking for something they already promised and have taken away.”
See full story in the Chester Leader