Millions made through Mersey Gateway fines

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Mersey Gateway Bridge. Pic © David Peace Wikimedia Commons

An astounding £2.4m was generated from Mersey Gateway Bridge penalty charge notices (PCN) during the last three months of 2018.

The toll system has been met with a backlash from motorists ever since the bridge opened in 2017, with some blaming Halton Borough Council’s decision not to set up payment booths leading to confusion.

A legal challenge last year resulted in a Traffic Penalty Tribunal ruling that fines were ‘illegal’ as fees were not correctly specified, though bridge operators insisted the money will not be repaid.

Much of the public anger is vented on a public Facebook group, Scrap Mersey Tolls, which has gathered over 5,000 members.

Group administrator, John McGoldrick, told JMU Journalism: “The worst feature of the Gateway scheme is that there is no toll booth.

“This has resulted in over one million penalty notices being issued to the public. We’ve seen authorities sending out a firm of bailiffs before the Christmas period, demanding many hundreds of pounds from those affected.”

Revenue from the toll charges and PCNs contributes towards the Cheshire bridge’s £600m construction, plus maintenance and ongoing operation costs. If fines are not paid within 42 days, recovery of the money may be handled by bailiffs.

Recent statistics suggest that despite the huge sum in fines, the number of unpaid £2 journeys resulting in a PCN has actually fallen.

YouTube: BBC North West Tonight

Laura Barton-Williams, Communications Officer for Mersey Gateway, told JMU Journalism: “More than 23 million journeys have been made across the Mersey Gateway Bridge since it started operation, 96% of payments were made on time.

“This shows that people are enjoying the quicker, easier and more reliable journeys the bridge brings.”

Ms Barton-Williams also responded to criticism of the toll’s signage, adding: “The signs in place when the new bridge opened to traffic were sufficient to meet the requirements of Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 and have been authorised by the Department for Transport.”

Despite this, the period from October to December 2018 still saw more than 200,000 penalty charges issued to drivers.

Tolls on two Severn bridges linking England and Wales were abolished in December after being handed over to public ownership. It was reported that the free bridges will increase local house prices and produce £1bn of economic benefit over the decade.

About Ellie Watkinson, JMU Journalism