A CAMPAIGN group is calling for an end to all tolls on Mersey crossings – as it was announced that more than one million vehicles used the new Mersey Gateway Bridge in its first 16 days of opening.

The group Scrap Mersey Tolls has launched a petition calling for an end to all tolls on the Mersey - the tunnels and the bridges. The petition on the 38 Degrees petition website https://you.38degrees.org.uk

/petitions/scrap-mersey-tolls is addressed to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Labour Party and the Mayor of the Liverpool City Region.

The petition starts: “With the opening of the tolled Mersey Gateway Bridge, and the tolling of the Silver Jubilee Bridge and the Mersey Tunnels, there are now four toll ‘barriers’ along a substantial length of the Mersey which effectively divide the region into two. These toll barriers damage both the local and wider economies and divide communities, families and friends.

“As the City Mayor said in his election manifesto of April 2017 'we are the only City Region in Europe where in the future all cross-river traffic movements will be subject to expensive tolls...we need to ensure that our river ceases to be a barrier to movement and commerce'.”

Claire Glynn, from Scrap Mersey Tolls, said “We are pressing all the parties to stop the discrimination where this area is treated worse than other areas of Britain, and the discrimination where some residents are treated unfavourably compared with others. We hope that many thousands will sign the petition and show the politicians of all parties how strong the feeling is against tolls. We hope to see an end to tolls as has already happened in Scotland and will soon be the case in Wales.”

More than a million vehicles crossed the new Mersey Gateway Bridge in its first 16 days of opening, with around 68% of the journeys in this initial period made by vehicles registered with Merseyflow.

Tolls have been in force since the new bridge, which links Runcorn and Widnes, opened, and around 65,000 to 70,000 vehicles every weekday are using the new nine kilometre route between junction 12 of the M56 and Speke Road in Widnes.

The first penalty charge notices have been issued – but the Merseyflow team has delayed issuing them as they have been taking extra time to check initial payments as customers get used to the new tolling system.

Drivers have a choice of either registering with Merseyflow, paying for their one-off journey up to a year in advance or paying for it by 11.59pm the day after they cross.

David Parr, Chief Executive of Halton Borough Council and the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board, said: “We’re very pleased that so many people are using the new route in its first two weeks, and I’m particularly pleased with the feedback our team has had from a lot of people about the time it has saved them on their journeys.”

One leading North West business backing the project is Stobart Group Ltd, which has a major logistics base in Widnes employing 166 people locally and running 135 vehicles.

Peter Cook, Chair of Halton Chamber of Commerce, said: “Last Monday morning I travelled from Chester to Liverpool at 8:30am and returned to Runcorn two hours later with no hold ups. Crossing the bridge at 60mph was quite a new experience! The view from the bridge made me realise just how big the project has been and what an amazing achievement it has been to construct whilst the traffic was still around. The new bridge and infrastructure are brilliant and now ensure easy flow, quick and reliable journeys for businesses and private users alike.”

More information about how to pay can be found at www.merseyflow.co.uk