The Mersey Gateway Project

Mersey Gateway and Silver Jubilee Bridge tolling – a clarification

Recently we have been receiving questions about Mersey Gateway and Silver Jubilee Bridge tolling particularly why tolls are needed and how the decision to toll both bridges was made.

We have written the below statement for clarification. This statement is an information document and all the content used sits in the public domain.

Both the new Mersey Gateway Bridge and the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge will be tolled once the new bridge opens in 2017.

Toll levels for when the new bridge opens in 2017 have now been set.

There will be no toll booths – both bridges will use an ‘open road tolling system’ where smart technology is used to keep traffic flowing along the route, capture vehicle details and ensure that all bridge users pay.

When the new bridge opens it is planned to close Silver Jubilee Bridge for 6 to 12 months to undertake essential maintenance work that is being postponed to avoid traffic disruption.

The standard toll charge to cross either bridge is set at £2 in 2017 for a one-way trip in a car or a small van. Visit our toll pages to see charges for different types of vehicles when the new bridge opens in 2017.

Some vehicles and users will be exempt from paying tolls including military vehicles, emergency service vehicles, and authorised ‘Blue Badge’ users. The Council has also decided to exempt local bus services from paying tolls when using the Silver Jubilee Bridge.

Recognising the impact of tolls on Halton residents, Halton Borough Council and thier MP’s have worked tirelessly, since Government approved the scheme back in 2006, with Steve Nicholson and the Mersey Gateway Team behind the scenes, to persuade Government to meet the full cost of tolls for ALL Halton residents.

On 25th July 2014, the aim was achieved when UK Chancellor George Osborne announced that the UK Government will provide the additional funding which will ensure free* trips across both the Silver Jubilee Bridge and Mersey Gateway Crossing for all Halton residents.

The Council will also be making huge improvements to pedestrian and cycle links across the river using the Silver Jubilee Bridge.

*Residents will have to register for the scheme and there will be a small charge for this.

Why tolls are needed

The case for a toll-free crossing has been made to Government and Government’s response has been clear – it is a tolled Silver Jubilee Bridge and Mersey Gateway or no new bridge.

On 28 March 2014 the Council entered into a contract with the Merseylink consortium which is responsible for the construction and operation of the project over a thirty year term. The Council payments to Merseylink are to be funded by a combination of toll revenue and Government grants.  Merseylink will use the payments received from the Council to meet its costs, including the repayment of around £650m in private sector loans and investment. The debt is set to take around 30 years to repay.

The contracts signed by Government, Merseylink (the contractor), the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board Ltd and the Council, is for two tolled crossings and sets out clear legal obligations, including obligations on tolls that are legally binding on all parties.

How the decision was made

The decision was initially made by a full meeting of Halton Council in April 2008.

As expected, this was then called in for public inquiry by the UK Secretary of State for Transport, and at the public inquiry in 2009, the case for and against tolls was presented to the Inspector. He concluded both bridges should be tolled.

The final go ahead was given in the inquiry decision letter published in 2010.

In approving the Tolling Orders for the Silver Jubilee Bridge and Mersey Gateway, Government endorsed the decision of the Inspector.

Community involvement and consultation

The Council has undertaken extensive consultation and community involvement work in relation to tolling stretching back over a decade:

In 2004 the public were asked about their views on tolling and its impact on Halton and the surrounding area. Whilst most respondents would have preferred a new crossing to be toll free, building a new bridge and tolling both it and the Silver Jubilee Bridge was a preferred option compared to doing nothing.

Halton Borough Council has been very clear since the project received initial approval from the Department for Transport back in 2006 that the only way the Mersey Gateway Bridge could be funded is by introducing tolls to it and the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge.

Based on the feedback received from further consultations in 2007, the Council committed to the principle of prioritising discounts for local people.

Who will be responsible for setting and collecting tolls?

In the funding agreement with Government, Halton Council has agreed the toll charges that will apply to both Mersey Gateway Bridge and Silver Jubilee Bridge. The Council is responsible for securing the revenue expected to come from tolls in future years until the new project is paid for. To ensure that the project continues to be managed by a competent and professional organisation, the Council and Government have established the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board.

The Mersey Gateway Crossings Board Ltd (the Board) is a company owned by Halton Borough Council with the delegated authority to deliver the Mersey Gateway Bridge project initially by administering and overseeing the contracts awarded to the Merseylink consortium.

The Board’s terms of reference and delegated authority are expressed in a Governance Agreement with the Council, set to last for sixty years, signed on 28 March 2014. The project construction costs are estimated at £600m with a total whole life cost of circa £2bn. Once operating, the Board will oversee a concession business with annual turnover of circa £70m. The operating costs of the Board are included in the funding arrangements for the project that have been agreed with Government and will not fall to the Council tax payer.

The Board is chaired by Councillor Rob Polhill, Leader of Halton Borough Council, and is led by Steve Nicholson, who has been Mersey Gateway Project Director since 2006.

If you have any questions about the statement please contact the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board on 0151 495 4091 or email enquiries@merseygateway.co.uk.

Rob Polhill
Leader, Halton Borough Council

Halton Borough Council Mersey Link

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Mersey Gateway Project