Prior to yesterday’s meeting at Merseytravel, I submitted some questions about certain aspects of the Mersey Tunnel Tolls changes . A Merseytravel spokesperson responded today. Their answers are below the original questions
Q1) Is the difference in price charged between Fast Tag holders and cash payers because of increased costs to Merseytravel regarding the latter?
A) No, this about marketing the convenience of this system for regular commuters.
Q2) Regarding 4.24 in the report, would this report mentioned be available on Thursday or will it only be prepared if the recommendation is passed?
A) A review of concessions will now be undertaken, after the recommendation was approved.
Q3) There are references throughout the report to the County of Merseyside Act 1980 as amended by the Mersey Tunnels Act 2004, in relation to the increases in tolls and discount structure. However it seems (at least to me) misleading to include references to the legal basis behind the other proposed recommendations, but not in 4.24. As I have pointed out in previous correspondence, the authority does this using its powers under s.92 ss.1(a) of the County of Merseyside Act 1980 as amended by the Mersey Tunnels Act 2004. It seems strange the tunnels legislation would be referenced elsewhere, but not here. Is this just an oversight?
A) This is covered by the Act. The general power to offer concessions is actually to be found at s.92C(a)(c) – the Authority has power to allow a class of traffic to use the tunnels on payment of tolls at a reduced rate, “on such occasions or in such other circumstances as it may from time to time determine”. In other words, the authority can review concessions from time to time and it would be remiss if it did not do so, as it was proposed here. Thus this recommendation is a proper one, with a firm legal basis. There is no particular need to mention this legal reference, but equally nothing sinister in its absence.
A) A review of concessions will now be undertaken, after the recommendation to investigate the issue was approved.
Q4) Have the legal implications of removing the current exemption for Blue Badge holders (and other disabled users) been thought through, regarding the authority’s legal duties under the Equalities Act 2010 and other relevant legislation?
Q5) What would be the cost implications to Merseytravel if Blue Badge holders were charged?
A) (to questions 4 and 5) These issues will be covered in the review, all considerations taken into account.
Q6) If a report is agreed reviewing this, which Merseytravel committee will it go to and when will it be considered?
A) It will be reported to the P&R committee and/or the Equalities Committee, in an appropriately timely manner to enable due consideration of all the issues concerned.
Q7) Will the Merseytravel Access Panel (public or affected disabled users of the tunnel) be consulted on any changes?
A) It will be consulted upon in an appropriate manner.
Clearly if the report recommends charging disabled users of Mersey Tunnels it’s going to be something the disability associations, charities and disabled drivers on Merseyside will have a view on. P&R refers to Merseytravel’s Policy and Resources Committee.