Minster “Not Minded” To Remove Tolls From Mersey Gateway Despite Further Request From Halton Borough Council
Halton Borough Council has once again asked Government to remove tolls on Mersey Gateway for NHS workers, key workers, volunteers, carers and critical supply chain to help them as we all fight against COVID 19.
Following what the Minister described as a “robust conversation” between Cllr Rob Polhill and Baroness Vere, a Minister in the Department for Transport, the Minister advised the Council that Government were “not minded” to remove tolls from Mersey Gateway “immediately” but would “keep it under review” and make “the right decision at the right time”.
Despite the specific wording used by the Minister, the consequence of the Government’s position is that Halton Borough Council cannot remove the tolls from Mersey Gateway – which the Council believe is the right thing to do – to support NHS workers, key workers, carers, volunteers and the critical supply chain who are at the forefront of fighting COVID 19 in Halton, Cheshire and the Liverpool City Region.
Responding to this decision Cllr Polhill, Leader of Halton Borough Council said: “However you dress this up, Government has decided not to remove tolls.
“We need the permission of Government to do this, so the consequence of the Government’s position is that the Council cannot remove the tolls.
“Those who will be most disappointed will be the NHS workers, key workers, volunteers, carers and critical supply network in Halton, Cheshire and the Liverpool City Region who continue to go ‘above and beyond’ to keep us safe from COVID 19 but who, as a result of the Government’s current position, will still be distracted from their primary roles and financially disadvantaged by paying tolls.
“These are the very people we are relying on most in these difficult times.
“We urge Government to reconsider their position without delay and will continue to press Government to allow the Council to remove the tolls.”
Government refuses to suspend tolls on Mersey Gateway
Earlier this week, Halton Borough Council Leader, Cllr Rob Polhill announced the steps the Council was taking to suspend tolls/charges on the Mersey Gateway to support key workers in their fight to tackle COVID-19 – he explained that to do so, would require Government approval.
It is with deep regret that Halton Borough Council must now report that Government Ministers “have considered (the Council’s) request to suspend tolling on the Mersey Gateway bridge and have decided not to approve such a move…”
Responding to this decision Cllr Rob Polhill, Leader of Halton Council said: “We are deeply disappointed the Government has refused the Council’s request to suspend
tolls/charges on Mersey Gateway.”
“We believe this compromises our efforts locally to meet the challenges presented by COVID 19.”
“We also believe it penalises the very people we are relying on to keep us all safe – our NHS staff, our key workers and our volunteers, who will now be faced with ongoing payments and the requirement to pay their tolls/charge, thereby distracting them from their primary role which is to save lives.”
“We will continue to press Government to do the right thing – which is to allow the Council to suspend tolls/charges on Mersey Gateway for NHS workers, key workers and our volunteers.”
An innovative community support scheme developed as part of the Mersey Gateway Project is coming back to boost community organisations in Halton in 2020.
The Mersey Gateway Time Bank scheme, which provides help and practical support for community groups, charities and voluntary organisations in Halton, will re-open applications for support today.
Local groups and charities will be able to submit applications by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org until Friday 27 March 2020.
Time Bank is a way for Merseylink – the team responsible for the operations and maintenance or the Mersey Gateway – and Merseyflow – the tolling administrator – to demonstrate their commitment to the local area and provide practical help and support to community groups, charities and voluntary organisations.
The scheme offers a commitment of time, expertise and resources from Merseylink and Merseyflow. Applicants will benefit from ‘deposits’ of time and resources, which can then be used to provide long-lasting benefits to community life in Halton.
Since the scheme was launched in May 2014 the Time Bank has already gifted over 20,000 hours of support locally across 18 projects in Runcorn and Widnes.
Play areas, village halls, studios and community facilities are just some of the organisations that have benefited from previous rounds of Time Bank activity.
One of those to benefit last year was LOOSE Charity in Widnes, which had a garden area completely transformed with new paved areas, planters and garden furniture for service users to enjoy.
Louise Nulty, studio project manager at LOOSE charity, said: “To have the support of Time Bank to transform our back space into a welcoming, attractive haven is fantastic.
“The revived area lifts everyone who attends, especially those who have seen it over many years.
“They can’t believe the change and the fact that it is now a useable and beautiful place for our visitors.”
A minimum of 30 days per year are committed through the Time Bank scheme, and assistance can include anything from regeneration activities, career advice, technical advice, general maintenance, painting and litter picking, as well as any suggestions applicants can provide.
Helen Higginson, Head of Fundraising at The Warrington & Halton Hospitals’ Charity, which also benefited from the initiative, said: “The project is hugely beneficial for our patients and their families. By creating fabulous gardens to enjoy, our patients can feel more at home. We’re incredibly grateful for all of our project volunteers who are giving up their time to take on the challenge.”
Community groups, charities and voluntary organisations who are interested in applying for support from the Time Bank are advised to get their applications in as soon as possible.
Anyone interested in applying can email email@example.com to apply or to find out more information.
Karen Atherton, Network Steward at Merseylink, said: “It’s been another fantastic year for the Time Bank scheme. The team really enjoyed projects ranging from reviving gardens, patios and play areas for charities across the community, including the Warrington & Halton Hospitals’ Charity, Westfield Community Playgroup and LOOSE Charity. We’re looking forward to welcoming even more projects on board for the Time Bank Initiative 2020.”
Beatriz Fuentes, Head of HR at Merseyflow, said: “We are proud to support the work of amazing local charities through the Time Bank initiative. Getting involved in the community challenges has brought our team together and provided the opportunity to engage with other volunteers and local charities. We’re excited to see what new projects we will be giving time to in 2020.”
Latest Mersey Gateway statistics show highest ever on-time journey payment rate and annual 18.5% drop in PCN charges
latest Mersey Gateway figures show a 18.5% drop in the number of Penalty Charge
Notices (PCNs) issued compared to the same period in 2018.
They also show the highest ever payment on time rate and record traffic levels using the Mersey Gateway Bridge between Runcorn and Widnes.
- An 18.5% reduction in the number of PCNs
compared to the same period last year (meaning 38,096 fewer PCNs were issued)
- Journey numbers increasing by 3% compared to the same period
last year up to a record high of 6.25 million journeys.
- 97.3% of journeys were paid for on time
(either through their account or by midnight the day after crossing) – this is the highest ever
- July was the highest ever month (2.14 million
crossings) for journeys made across the bridge
number of PCNs issued between July and September 2019 has fallen by 38,096
compared to the figure from the same period last year. This is an 18.5%
year-on-year drop in the number of PCNs issued, which means that more people
are paying on time for their crossing.
comes at a time when traffic levels using the bridge are at their highest ever
recorded, with 6.25 million journeys being made across the River Mersey in
Halton during the July – September 2019 period.
Conway, Chief Executive of merseyflow, said: “This has been our best ever
quarter. I am delighted to see the significant reduction in PCNs and an
all-time high in journeys paid for on time, particularly when the quarter recorded
the highest number of crossings made across the bridge.
added: “These statistics show that we are achieving our key objectives,
improving the pay on time rates for the users of the bridge, and as a
consequence of that reducing the number of Penalty Charge Notices issued. The
work we do to encourage people to register with us and pay on time is working,
and we will continue to look at new ways to make it quicker and easier for users
of the bridge to either register with us, or to pay their charge on time, as we
want to see the trend of reducing PCN numbers and increasing traffic levels
Bennett, Managing Director of the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board, said: “It’s
great to see more people using the Mersey Gateway Bridge and less people
getting PCNs. We would much rather everyone paid on time or registered with
merseyflow. In an ideal world, we don’t want to issue any PCNs, so it is very
positive to see this 18.5% year-on-year reduction.”
added: “We’re now two years on from the bridge opening, so the ongoing increase
in traffic levels shows people are benefitting from quicker, easier and more
reliable journeys across the river. We know how important this reliability and
access is to residents, commuters and the business community, so our focus is
on maintaining that and improving the service wherever we can.”
The quarterly merseyflow dashboard provides a range of in-depth statistics and graphs which show information on the number of crossings made, average daily traffic, number of PCNs issued, payments made on time, total revenue and what percentage of this comes from PCNs.
Mersey Gateway Time Bank to return to boost Halton communities in 2019 Read more →