The week ending 17 May was the busiest for
traffic across the Mersey Gateway Bridge since the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown
began back in March. An extra 45,000 vehicles crossed the bridge compared to
the previous week.
New data shows that the traffic level at the
height of the lockdown was less than a third of the typical pre-lockdown number
of vehicles flowing across the bridge between Runcorn and Widnes.
However, whilst the past week has been the
busiest since 16 March, overall traffic is still at less than half of
Traffic has dropped across all vehicle
classes, though the new figures shared by bridge operator merseyflow do show
how traffic patterns have varied across different vehicle types over the past
- The quietest week was week commencing 6th
April when just 154,000 vehicles crossed the Mersey, compared to a typical
pre-lockdown average of almost 500,000 journeys.
- Class 4 vehicles – HGVs and other large
vehicles – went from around 7% of daily traffic up to 13% of daily traffic at
the height of the lockdown, before reducing back to their current figure of 10%.
- Halton residents, Blue Badge holders and
registered customers have all significantly reduced travel as a result of the
- Motorcyclists have taken advantage of the
lockdown easing and better weather, with the past week showing the highest
number of motorcyclists crossing the bridge in a single week for several months
- The number of PCNs issued reduced
significantly and payment on time rates remained high at almost 98% during
April and May.
- A growing percentage of people paying for
their journeys using the merseyflow quick pay app, which has now been downloaded
over 26,000 times since it was launched last November.
A number of new features for the app are now
being tested and will be ready for roll-out within the next few weeks.
Tolls/charges remain in force on the bridge,
despite a number of urgent requests from Halton Borough Council, which have
been supported by merseyflow, to the UK Government to temporarily waive
tolls/charges during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The UK Government has not agreed to this
request as it has maintained its stance that continuation of tolling/charging
on crossings is a matter that has to be considered in a national context.
Neil Conway, Chief Executive of merseyflow,
said: “These figures show just how much people across the north west have
reduced their travel during the lockdown. They will also act as a guide to how
much things are slowly getting ‘back to normal’ in terms of behaviour patterns
as the lockdown gradually eases. We’ve just finished the first week of things
being more relaxed, but it is clear that less people are staying at home as
there was an extra 45,000 journeys made last week.”
Mike Bennett, Managing Director of the Mersey
Gateway Crossings Board, said: “I think these figures show how responsible
people have been over the past two months in minimising non-essential journeys.
It also shows how the changing message from Government since 11th
May has certainly had an impact on traffic activity levels here in the north
The latest Mersey Gateway figures show how people are heeding Government guidance and cutting out non-essential travel since the lockdown began on 23 March.
They also show a continuing year-on-year reduction in the number of PCNs issued (a 14% drop) and the income received from PCNs (a 20% drop).
These are like-for-like comparisons as the cut-off date of the end of March would be too early to reflect any impact of Covid-19 on the number of PCNs issued and customers paying.
The detailed figures, which are presented in the quarterly Mersey Gateway dashboard and cover January – March 2020, show:
- Covid-19 lockdown impact starting to show in journey figures traffic levels in March 2020 were at their lowest since the bridge opened as people followed Government guidance to only undertake essential travel.
- A 14% reduction in the number of PCNs issued compared to the same period last year (meaning 24,000 fewer PCNs were issued), which means more people are paying on time for their crossing.
- Record high traffic levels for January and February – before the lockdown began traffic levels for January and February were at their highest ever.
- Over 97% of journeys were paid for on time (either through their account or by midnight the day after crossing).
- Income from PCNs was down 20% when compared to the same period in 2019.
The merseyflow quick pay app, which is now available for iPhones and Android phones, has been downloaded over 25,000 times since it was launched, and is now the second most popular method of payment (after the merseyflow website). A number of new features for the app are now being tested and will be ready for roll-out within the next few weeks.
Tolls/charges remain in force on the bridge, despite a number of urgent requests from Halton Borough Council, which have been supported by merseyflow, to the UK Government to temporarily waive tolls/charges during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The UK Government has not agreed to this request as it has maintained its stance that continuation of tolling/charging on crossings is a matter that has to be considered in a national context.
Whilst it is unclear how long the lockdown will last, the next quarterly dashboard – due in July – will show some significant changes as people minimise non-essential travel, including:
- a huge drop in traffic volume – journeys in April have dropped significantly, with weekday traffic volume running at just 35% of the pre-lockdown numbers
- a significant reduction in the number of PCNs issued
- a significant reduction in income from tolls/charges and PCNs.
Neil Conway, Chief Executive of merseyflow, said: “The world has changed significantly in the past month, and the January to March figures are just starting to tell that story. Our message to everyone is to stay safe and only travel if it is essential in line with the latest Government guidance. I’d also recommend that anyone who is paying for individual crossings downloads and uses the merseyflow quick pay app as it is the quickest and easiest way to pay for individual journeys.”
He added: “We’re very supportive of the stance Halton Borough Council and the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board have taken by asking the Government to temporarily waive tolls/charges at this stage of the Covid-19 pandemic and will continue to support them with that.”
Mike Bennett, Managing Director of the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board, said: “We’re continuing to work with Halton Borough Council’s leadership team to demonstrate to Government why tolls/charges should be temporarily waived at this stage of the Covid-19 pandemic. These quarterly figures, and those from the first two weeks of April, show that people here are doing their bit by cutting out essential travel.”
He added: “Whilst toll/charges are still operational, it is really important that people pay for their journeys. I would encourage anyone who uses the bridge regularly to register with merseyflow and get a discount on their crossings.”
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.The dashboard can be viewed at www.merseyflow.co.uk/stats
The Mersey Gateway Bridge is being lit up Royal Blue on Thursday nights in April in support of our NHS staff.
As we continue our efforts to support the temporary waiving of toll charges during this emergency period, the Mersey Gateway Bridge is being lit up Royal Blue on Thursday nights in April in support of our NHS staff. The popular rainbow support colours will also feature on other nights throughout the month as we encourage everyone to Stay Home, Stay Safe
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.”