Liverpool City Region Combined Authority decides to freeze Mersey Tunnels cash tolls for 2016/17 at 2015/16 levels, reduce Fast Tag tolls in 2016/17, not charge tolls on Christmas Day 2016 and no tolls for emergency vehicles

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority decides to freeze Mersey Tunnels cash tolls for 2016/17 at 2015/16 levels, reduce Fast Tag tolls in 2016/17, not charge tolls on Christmas Day 2016 and no tolls for emergency vehicles

                                                              

Councillors on the Merseytravel Committee met on Thursday afternoon to decide on a recommendation on Mersey Tunnel tolls for 2016/17. Their recommendation was accepted at a meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority that met the following day on Friday morning.

You can view video of the Merseytravel Committee meeting on Youtube below (starting at agenda item 6 (Mersey Tunnel tolls).

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Merseytravel Committee meeting 4th February 2016 starting at agenda item 6 (Mersey Tunnel tolls) (1m45s)

You can view video of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting on Youtube below (starting at agenda item 10 (Mersey Tunnel tolls 2016/17) below.

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The decision made was that cash tolls would be kept the same for 2016/17 as they were in 2015/16. The cash toll levels decided for 2016/17 are shown below.






Vehicle Class2016/17 Cash toll
1£1.70
2£3.40
3£5.10
4£6.80

The price for Fast Tag tolls was reduced for 2016/17. Below is a table of 2016/17 Fast Tag tolls compared to 2015/16.






Vehicle Class2016/17 Fast Tag toll2015/16 Fast Tag toll
1£1.20£1.40
2£2.40£2.80
3£3.60£4.20
4£4.80£5.60

There were also other changes agreed for 2016/17. Tunnel tolls will be waived for all classes of traffic between 10 pm on Christmas Eve (24th December 2016) to 6 am on Boxing Day (26th December 2016). All designated emergency vehicles will no longer have to pay tolls in 2016/17.

These were the votes on the Mersey Tunnel tolls decision at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting.

FOR THE PROPOSAL (4)
Mayor Joe Anderson (Liverpool City Council) FOR
Cllr Phil Davies (Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council) FOR
Cllr Andy Moorhead (Knowsley Council) FOR
Cllr John Fairclough (Sefton Council) deputy for Cllr Ian Maher (Sefton Council) FOR

ABSTENTION (1)
Cllr Rob Polhill (Halton) ABSTAIN

Reacting to the decision, John McGoldrick representing the Mersey Tunnels Users Association stated that “the [Liverpool City Region Combined] Authority would still be making a massive profit from the Tunnels and that most users of the Tunnels would not be seeing the reductions in tolls promised last year.”;

During the meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Cllr Phil Davies (pictured below) said,

Cllr Phil Davies speaking about Mersey Tunnel tolls for 2016 17 at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting on the 5th February 2016
Cllr Phil Davies speaking about Mersey Tunnel tolls for 2016 17 at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting on the 5th February 2016
“Yeah, I’d just like to say a few things about this. I welcome the recommendations of Merseytravel yesterday and the recommendations in this report.

Errm, I think I just need to record the fact that I’ve been involved in the errm the Task Group that’s been looking at this so, this issue errm, but I clearly wanted to, to hear what the outcome of the meeting is today was and I do endorse the approach.

I mean from each err, errm, we did make a commitment in the devolution deal that we gain control of the finances of the Mersey, Mersey Tunnels, errm and certainly you know, wearing my Wirral hat, I think this is definitely a big move forward, errm.

You know, the id.., the fact that the errm the cash toll has been frozen for a further year is great news but even more importantly the Fast Tag, which is effectively a local discount, is being reduced by 20p. So that would mean that errm, there’ll be a 50%, 50p discount per a journey, using the Fast Tag which if you’re travelling, if you’re travelling each day, it could be a saving of £5 a week.

So I think this is err, you know if I can use the expression, I think this is the kind of devolution dividend deal if you like, the deal that was signed with government, I think it will help local people who use the Fast Tag and local businesses. Errm and I really think this is a good demonstration of the value we’re getting already from the devolution deal but finally Chair I’d like to say I’m hoping in future err years we can go even further.

I think we need to do err more work, err more, I know there are more discussions errm err going on with government about us gaining even greater control over the finances of the Tunnels. Certainly from a personal point of view, I’d like to see us continue to drive down the costs of the err tunnel tolls for residents particularly local users, but I do welcome the recommendations in the report. Thanks Chair.”

 

Just for clarity, the discount for Fast Tag users (compared to cash tolls) for 2016/17 is not 50% as stated by Cllr Phil Davies. It’s (to the nearest percent) 29% for class 1, 29% for class 2, 29% for class 3 and 29% for class 4.

The new tolls for 2016/17 will come into effect on Sunday 3rd April 2016. If you wish you can apply for a Fast Tag on the Mersey Tunnels website here.

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MTUA accuse politicians of ‘U-turn’ on Mersey Tunnel tolls promises

MTUA accuse politicians of ‘U-turn’ on Mersey Tunnel tolls promises

MTUA accuse politicians of ‘U-turn’ on Mersey Tunnel tolls promises

                                                                  

For those not from Merseyside and reading this in far-flung lands, I had better first explain what the Mersey Tunnels are. Anyone local to Merseyside reading this can skip the next paragraph.

Liverpool is separated from the peninsula of the Wirral by the River Mersey and beneath the River Mersey are two road tunnels and a railway tunnel (the railway tunnel that opened in 1886 is not the focus of this article). One road tunnel connects Liverpool to the town of Birkenhead (called the Queensway Tunnel) and the other with the town of Wallasey (called the Kingsway Tunnel). The Birkenhead Tunnel opened in 1934 and the Wallasey Tunnel in 1971. Both road tunnels are tolled with the current cash toll for cars being £1.70 (different rates apply for those who pay by Fast Tag or different sizes of vehicles).

The issue of the tunnel tolls has been a long running political issue locally and each year the tunnel tolls are set by local politicians. For years the local transport body called Merseytravel (which was then eighteen councillors from the various parts of Merseyside) decided on the Mersey Tunnel tolls. As the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) was created in April 2014, it meant that this year the tolls decision was made by the LCRCA (on a recommendation from the Merseytravel Committee).

The LCRCA comprises the elected leaders of each Council on Merseyside, the elected Mayor of Liverpool, the Chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership and the Leader of Halton. The Chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership (as detailed in the LCRCA’s constitution) doesn’t have a vote when the Mersey Tunnel tolls are set and the Leader of Halton abstained in the vote this year because Halton’s not part of Merseyside.

Earlier this year, in the lead up to the 2015 General Election (to elect MPs) and 2015 local elections (to elect local councillors) politicians from both the Labour and Conservative parties made soothing noises to the public about the issue of tunnel tolls.

Once the running costs of the tunnels and debt repayments are paid out of the money received through tolls, there is now a surplus of around £16 million. The generally accepted position is that legislation, in this case the Mersey Tunnels Act 2004 means that any surplus tolls are only spent on transport projects that are in the Local Transport Plan.

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Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting of the 13th February 2015 which should start at agenda item 7 (2015/16 Mersey Tunnel Tolls which starts at 1h 3m 4s)

However returning to February 2015 (see video of that meeting above which should start at the right point) politicians on the LCRCA agreed to a freeze in toll charges.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson speaking on a motion on the Mersey Tunnels at a meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority 13th February 2015
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson speaking on a motion on the Mersey Tunnels at a meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority 13th February 2015

The Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, seconded by the Chair of the LCRCA Cllr Phil Davies moved the following motion (agreed at February’s meeting of the LCRCA as you can read in the minutes):

The Combined Authority (CA) calls on:

  • The Chair of the CA to set up a task group to consider options open to the CA to reduce costs of tunnel tolls and its impact on infrastructure and transportation;
  • The Head of Paid Service of the CA to produce a report for discussion to inform the setting of tunnel tolls for 2016/17;
  • The CA to press for a review of the Mersey Tunnel Act in any on-going devolution negotiations.

The Mersey Tunnel Users Association feels that the recently approved devolution asks of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority as reported earlier this month on this blog, which include asking the government for a legislation change so that surplus tolls can be spent on "wider broader infrastructure and economic development and transport infrastructure across the city region" is a U-turn on what politicians’ position was before the election.

John McGoldrick, secretary for the Mersey Tunnel Users Association (MTUA) stated,

"Assuming that the politicians meant what they said earlier this year, then it looks as if they have done a u-turn and the users of the Tunnels are to be sold down the river. Instead of stopping the profit taking and reducing tolls, it seems that the City Region’s aim is to use the tolls profits on economic development or infrastructure "across the city region". The people who voted in the May elections have been duped over what Labour’s tolls policy was.

The Conservative party also made promises about reducing or abolishing tolls. It is not yet clear what the Government is going to do and whether they will honour what the Chancellor and others said before the May elections. We urge all drivers and businesses to raise this issue with their MP and local councillors."

The motion to the special meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting that met on the 2nd September and approved the devolution asks of government made it clear that before any devolution deal offered by the government was approved, that the constituent councils would have to agree and there would have to be consultation.

Each of the constituent councils in the LCRCA are Labour controlled and those that make these decisions on this matter on the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority are all Labour politicians.

It remains to be seen what the Conservative government’s response will be to the request for greater flexibility on what surplus tunnel tolls can be spent on.

However the MTUA is also against the spending of tunnel tolls on transport projects. John McGoldrick of the MTUA added "Obviously the MTUA aim is no tolls, but as a minimum we want a stop to the use of tolls for non Tunnels purposes."

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10 pages of MFRA councillors’ expense claims for car mileage, tolls, parking and taxis

10 pages of MFRA councillors’ expense claims for car mileage, tolls, parking and taxis

10 pages of MFRA councillors’ expense claims for car mileage, tolls, parking and taxis

                                          

Below are ten A4 pages of expense claims submitted by councillors on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority for the 2014/15 financial year. It’s the first ten of eighty-nine pages and each thumbnail below should link to a more high-definition (and therefore readable) image for each page.

The councillors these pages are for are Cllr Lesley Rennie, Cllr Dave Hanratty, Cllr Leslie T Byrom, Cllr Robbie Ayres. The expense claims are for car mileage, parking, tolls on the M6 toll road and taxis.

The four page expense claim of Cllr Leslie T Byrom is because receipts for the M6 toll road weren’t submitted with the original claim but submitted later. The Midland Expressway Limited receipts for the M6 toll road although they look similar at first are for travel on different days (one for the 11th December 2014 and the other for the 12th December 2014).

FOA stands for Fire Officers Association, HQ is headquarters, FSMC is Fire Safety Management Committee, NW for North West, FSN for Fire Support Network and TDA for Training and Development Academy. I’ve no idea what SRB or C&N stand for. If you know, please leave a comment.

This is continued at 10 more pages of MFRA councillors’ expense claims for car mileage, taxis and parking.