Halton Borough Council has launched a three-week consultation to obtain views on proposed changes to the toll charges at the new Mersey Gateway bridge.
The toll system has attracted criticism, with complaints over a perceived lack of signage and a lack of clarity over charges since the bridge opened on 14 October last year. Motorists have appealed penalty charges, arguing that it had been unclear how they are supposed to pay on the free-flow, toll booth-free system.
The consultation does not consider the principle or levels of toll charging in itself – either for Mersey Gateway or, once it reopens next year, the Silver Jubilee Bridge, but includes a number of proposed changes, mostly around exemptions.
Changes include the widening of those groups entitled to register for exemption to toll charges, changes to the Halton Local User Discount economic hardship scheme, a new classification for motor homes, and the inclusion of a special circumstance for Halton residents that have a disability, but don’t qualify for Blue Badge status.
Making changes would be a legislative process, and Halton’s intention is to revoke The Mersey Gateway Bridge and the A533 (Silver Jubilee Bridge) Roads User Charging Scheme Order 2017, replacing it with a new order, called the A533 Mersey Gateway Bridge and the A557 (Silver Jubilee Bridge) Road User Charging Scheme Order.
The £600m bridge took three and a half years to build, and registration opened in July, ahead of its October opening.
The Merseyflow toll system is operated by Emovis, which encouraged all locals to register online or at the Merseyflow walk0in centre in Runcorn, saying that it would be possible to cross the bridge without registering but vehicles doing so would have to pay the full unregistered toll fee of £2 per car per crossing, with additional charges for larger vehicles.
The consultation document can be viewed online.