Derek Twigg MP

Member of Parliament for Halton

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Mersey Gateway & Letter to the Rt Hon John McDonnell MP Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Both the Mersey Gateway and the Silver Jubilee Bridge are in my constituency of Halton and there is a long history that has led to current tolling situation.  I have been involved in the crossings situation for over two decades, making many representations to governments to support the fact that Halton needed a new Mersey crossing. 

Halton is made up of two towns - Runcorn and Widnes, which are divided by the River Mersey.  Halton people have for decades suffered dreadful congestion trying to travel around their own borough due to the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge traffic. As traffic crossing Halton’s existing bridge increased massively, from a few thousand vehicles a day in 1961 to 70,000 plus a day in recent times, it became apparent that a new bridge was needed. 

Unfortunately various governments refused to fund a new un-tolled crossing and additionally went further in that they would not allow the Mersey Gateway Project without the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge also being tolled.  Government’s position was it was either tolled bridges or no new bridge. It was agreed that the new bridge was an absolute necessity for the future of Halton, therefore the Labour run Halton Borough Council went ahead with the Mersey Gateway Project.  Both the Mersey Gateway and the Silver Jubilee Bridge are ring fenced to Halton Borough Council and form no part of the Liverpool City Region agreement.  The Mersey Gateway Project includes the repair and renovation of the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge, which when it re-opens will revert to its original purpose of being the local Runcorn – Widnes bridge connected into the local road networks of Widnes and Runcorn.

From the point of the new crossing being allowed to go ahead, I repeatedly made strong representations to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne stating it would be totally unfair for my constituents to have to pay tolls to cross their own borough.  I also attended meetings with my constituents regarding the tolls, advising them that I would not give up until my constituents were not paying tolls to cross their own borough. I have never given up on that.

In 2014 George Osborne, following my many representations, finally promised that all Halton residents would travel toll free and that there would be a special help scheme for local businesses.  In 2015 the Tory government then reneged on this promise to all Halton residents by reverting to the original council funded Local User Discount criteria, simply topping up the original council commitment and stating residents in Council Tax Bands G & H would have to pay tolls and stating that State Aid laws stopped them allowing a special scheme to help small local businesses, which I continue to challenge.

While I obviously welcome the fact that following my representations, over 99% of Halton residents can travel toll free on their own bridges, I continue to raise the case for my constituents living in Council Tax Bands G & H and for local small business.  Most recently speaking to the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP on these very issues, however the Tory government currently tell me that they have no plans to look at this issue again.  I strongly believe that no Halton resident should be paying tolls to cross their own borough. 

I have also written to John McDonnell MP, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer asking if a Labour government would lift the tolls off Halton’s two bridges by funding the finance of the Mersey Gateway Project or at the very least would a future Labour government guarantee to make Halton residents living in Council Tax Bands G&H eligible for the £10.00 per year local resident scheme, alongside a scheme to assist local small businesses.  You can find the letter below.

I support the case that government should have funded the Mersey Gateway, however, unless government changes its position on the funding arrangements, the bridges will remain tolled until they are paid for.  Only government could fund the lifting of tolls on the Mersey Gateway and the Silver Jubilee Bridge.

 

Derek Twigg 

 

The Rt Hon John McDonnell MP,
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA


Dear John,

I am writing to you regarding the Mersey Gateway and Silver Jubilee Bridge tolls.  The Mersey Gateway is nearing completion and is due to open very shortly and the Silver Jubilee Bridge is an existing bridge over the River Mersey that will shut for 12 months for much needed maintenance work as the Mersey Gateway opens.  

Both bridges are in my constituency of Halton and there is a long history regarding what has led to current tolling situation, I have been involved in the crossings situation for many, many years.  Halton is made up of two towns - Runcorn and Widnes, which are divided by the River Mersey.  Halton people have for decades suffered traffic jams trying to travel around their own borough when using the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge which originally opened in 1961.  As traffic increased it became apparent that a new bridge was needed.  Unfortunately various governments refused the business case for a new untolled crossing and additionally went further in that they would not allow a new tolled crossing without the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge also being tolled.  It was decided that the new bridge was an absolute necessity for the future of Halton and for the rest of the region, therefore the Labour run Halton Borough Council went ahead with the Mersey Gateway.  Both the Mersey Gateway and the Silver Jubilee Bridge are ring fenced to Halton Borough Council and form no part of the Liverpool City Region Devolution agreement.

From the point of agreeing the new crossing, I repeatedly made representations to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne stating it would be unfair for my constituents to have to pay tolls to cross their own borough.  The Labour led Halton Council had already put funds in to try to help residents with tolls and were advised that they must use a socio economic criteria for any Local User Discount Scheme that they proposed.  They decided to use the socio economic criteria of Council Tax Bands to ensure that as many Halton residents would get discounted tolls as possible, this resulted in 99.6% of Halton residents being eligible for the Local User Discount Scheme.  In 2014 George Osborne finally promised that all Halton residents would travel toll free and that there would be a special help scheme for local businesses.  The Tory government then reneged on the promise to all Halton residents by reverting to the original council funded Local User Discount criteria and stating residents in Council Tax Bands G & H would have to pay tolls, while stating that State Aid laws stopped them allowing there to be a special scheme to help.  While I obviously welcome the fact that 99.6% of Halton residents can travel toll free on their own bridges, I have carried on raising this with government and they tell me that they have no plans to look at this issue again.

I am writing to ask firstly if the next Labour government could fund the lifting of the tolls on the Mersey Gateway Bridge and the Silver Jubilee Bridge for all, it is my understanding that the cost of that would be in the region of £1.8 billion.  Or if that is not possible, would the next Labour government allow the lifting of the tolls for 0.4% of Halton residents that are not covered by the Local User Discount Scheme and look at a scheme to help local businesses.

I look forward to your response and if you need any further background on the Mersey Gateway please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Yours sincerely,

 

Derek Twigg MP

 

 

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