Warburton Toll Bridge
The increase would be the first in 150+ years. Credit: Peel Ports

Warrington asks for rethink on bridge toll hike

Neil Tague

The local authority has stated its “strong opposition” to increased prices for users of the Warburton Toll Bridge following the structure’s proposed £6.5m renovation.

A four-week consultation was opened yesterday by Manchester Ship Canal Company, part of Peel Ports, on its plans to undertake a £6.5m upgrade programme that will see the bridge itself, approach roads and toll-taking systems upgraded.

Measures include the automation of toll-taking to reduce queueing and direct measures to control the height, weight, size and speed of vehicles using the bridge.

The management of the bridge was passed by the government to the Manchester Ship Canal Company in the late 19th century and has effectively remained there since. The bridge crosses the waterway on the B5159, linking the A57 to the A6144.

In its sustainable investment plan document, Peel points out that the low current cost of using the bridge is something of an anomaly, saying “to our knowledge we are the only private toll operator in England that has never asked for a toll increase since its original founding legislation,” meaning the rate of 12p has been in place since the original 1863 Act. Vivid Economics worked on the plan with the group.

Excluding VAT, said Peel, the bridge at present brings in £250,000 a year. The company is thus seeking to increase the toll to £1 per crossing, with a 50p discount for residents of certain local postcodes –  these addresses making up around 30% of crossings according to the firm’s modelling.

Motorists making multiple crossings in a day will pay a maximum of £2 due to capping. Peel Ports’ plan compares the proposals to other Mersey crossings: £1.80 for the tunnels and £2 for the Mersey Gateway.

Warrington Council is in the process of providing a formal response to state its firm opposition.

The council’s cabinet member for transportation, highways and public realm, Cllr Hans Mundry, said: “We acknowledge that a significant upgrade of Warburton & Rixton Toll Bridge, to bring it into the 21st century, has been needed for some time.

“Any proposals to invest in the future of the bridge are to be welcomed. However, it is completely unacceptable that motorists should have to bear the brunt of these costs. We are extremely concerned by these toll increase proposals, which could see bridge users paying up to eight times more per trip than the current charge.”

Both Warrington and fellow consultee Trafford Council have confirmed they cannot make a financial contribution to the bridge redevelopment.

Mundry continued: “Some years ago, the government committed to free tolls for local residents who regularly use the Mersey Gateway bridge – now we find that potentially local residents will have to also pay an astronomic toll to cross the Warburton bridge.

“This is a substantial increase, which would have a real financial impact on motorists, particularly those who need to use the bridge regularly to get to work or visit family. We absolutely cannot support this, and that’s why we are writing to Peel Ports to state our strong opposition, and to urge them to reconsider their proposals.”

Should the plan proceed as Peel Ports intends, work would start in 2023.

A spokesperson for Manchester Ship Canal Company said: “Warrington Borough Council and Trafford Borough Council have been fully involved over several years in helping us to develop our plan to future-proof the bridge.

“Judging by the feedback we receive about the bridge and the approach roads, the upgrades will be welcomed because they will ultimately reduce travel times and provide smoother journeys.

“The current toll was set during the American Civil War and it too needs to be brought into the 21st century, which will be the best way of funding these improvements, accepting that no action is not a sustainable way forward.”

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Laughable, the local authorities want infrastructure to be upgraded but assume it comes FOC

By TJL

When does assest ‘maintenance’ become a ‘refurbishment’? The only new physical infrastructure appears to be replacing the toll booth with ANPR cameras.

By Bob

When the Manchester Ship Canal Company sought permission to construct the channel one of the things they agreed to provide was the crossing over it free of charge (The toll is to cross the original bridge over the Mersey River which still exists albeit over a dry ditch). MSCC have been taking tolls for the last 130years ad now need to dig deep to keep providing what they are obliged to do so.

By Mr H

Not prepared to contribute, private sector undertakes work but Council complains that the users will have to pay more to use it. No particular fan of Peel but I’m not aware they have become a charity.

By Harpsicord

Not really my area but the bridge either needs adopting or CPO-ing.

By BC

It was 10p a trip for a long time and you could buy a week ticket for £1

By Anonymous

12p in 1863 is the equivalent of over £14.00 today according to the Bank of England Inflation Calculator. No doubt Cllr Mundry either didn’t do his homework or conveniently forgot to mention this in his objection. Either way, I suggest the WBC stop politically grandstanding and support this upgrade. £1.00 is a hell of a lot cheaper than having to drive the long way around. It’s also more environmentally friendly than those millions of ‘dead’ additional miles if that were the case. Peel have also made it clear there will be concessions for local users. Alternatively, why don’t Warrington CPO the bridge, then dig deep in their pockets to upgrade it prior to adopting it. Oops, I forgot they have no money, but they want it both ways; enough said!!

By Grumpy Old Git

Well from 12p each way to £1. Is a bit much. We will go the other way, may be further but will stop the money grabbers,

By Joanne Evans

As Mr H said, the toll isn’t for the big bridge over the canal. It’s for the small one over the ditch.
Peel are obliged to provide a free crossing over their canal but seem to be trying to conflate the issues to help pay for their maintenance liability for the the ship canal bridge.

By Joe Bloggs

As Mr H points out, MSC and Peel by succession accepted the burden of providing a crossing when the Mersey was canalised. There was no provision of a rate review in the Act which facilitated this burden, so why should they now be free to revise the deal?

By MerseyFlo

I think the price rise is extortionate , I wouldn’t mind paying 50p each way.

By E. White

The original toll was for a stone bridge not the canal. See Bernard Eaves probably on look north west in the 1960’s explaining what the toll was.

By Gordon

Peel holdings knew what they were taking on when they bought the canal, They don’t seem to like the responsibility that goes with it. The same goes for the swing bridges along the canal, as well as the locks.

By Paul

Just get rid of the toll all together. then there’s no hold ups and make the road and bridge owned and maintained by the county/council. Then everyone’s happy.

By Anonymous