A/cs from 1934
Wednesday 27th December 2006
Some reports and comments from the last few weeks -
At the end of October the Echo reported on the likely demise of Merseytravel. We commented that "Merseytravel have a lot of powerful friends" and the chances were that the Tunnels would still be run by people who are not directly elected. On Friday 22nd (2 months after the story), Merseytravel responded in the Echo to "assure everyone" that they would be continuing.
There has been a series of letters in the Globe between Merseytravel and Ian Lewis of Leasowe and Moreton Conservatives on the issue of a bus shelter that Merseytravel were not going to replace as it was apparently going to cost 96 pence more than their guide price. On the 13th, Dave Coakley from Wallasey joined in and said - "... I look forward to the day Merseytravel is ... under directly elected officials. Perhaps then we can get some movement on some of these important issues, particularly removal of the tunnels tolls".
On the 18th, the Government announced that it was giving £46.5 million to Merseytravel for the year beginning April 2007 to "fund a range of improvements, including new road safety measures, better street lighting, road maintenance, park and ride facilities and cycle lanes". This is largely money that used to be given to local authorities to improve roads - now the Government aim is to make roads worse by reducing space for cars, vans and lorries and generally impeding traffic. The next step is to say that we need "road pricing" because of the congestion.
The Echo on the 13th had a letter from a bus driver, complaining about other vehicles using bus lanes, particularly St John's Lane.
Buses and bus drivers provide an essential service for many people, but bus lanes are a waste of a resource which is being paid for ten times over by drivers of cars, vans and lorries. Outside the peak period, St Johns's Lane (which used to be a major thoroughfare) is now almost as empty as the blocked off William Brown Street, and has a policeman posted at the bottom. All this does is cause congestion in the area around the Birkenhead tunnel entrance.
On the 12th the Echo reported - "Tunnels 08 welcome from staff".
On the 18th the Echo printed this reaction from our chairman, Dave Loudon -
"Merseytravel say that "the tolls staff will be the first point of contact for 08 visitors, and first impressions are hugely influential".
Heaven help us if the tolls are the first point of contact. No-one likes paying tolls, and even less queuing to pay them.
There is not another city in Britain where the visitor is welcomed by a hand held out for an admission payment."
Rex Makin's Echo column on the 15th was nearly all about the state of the roads and the war against drivers. It started "Woe, woe, woe ye citizens of Liverpool! Calamity, calamity, calamity!
There have been various letters in the Wirral Globe about the Council's war on drivers. Including -
"Has war been declared on us?" "Council bringing traffic to a halt . . ." "Traffic delays" "Council works for us - not the reverse" "Traffic solution".
On the 12th, the Daily Post printed this letter from us -
"Friday's Daily Post backed the possible resurrection of the trams scheme.
A scheme that was to be partly financed by tunnels tolls. One reason for your support was that there would be "minimal CO2 emissions" from trams. This implied that as the trams would be powered by electricity, there would be no C02 emissions.
This is a fallacy as "renewable" sources of energy all go into the baseload. At the margin, our electricity comes from oil and gas generators.
They might use horse drawn trams instead, but unfortunately horses, like people, breathe out CO2."
Saturday 9th December 2006
Roundup of last two weeks -
Thank you to all those who came to the General meeting on the 27th November. The attendance was dissapointing, but various ideas were put forward as to what we should be pressing for. We will let you know what develops.
On the 3rd the Daily Post reported on plans for tolls on all roads - "National road tolls 'in 10 years'". The Post in their editorial backed the idea, so our secretary, John McGoldrick, sent them this which was published on the 5th-
Road pricing straitjacket
I WAS disappointed to see in Saturday's Daily Post that you are to some extent backing the idea of "road pricing ".
Road users are already subject to extortionate rates of taxes, far more than with other forms of transport or sources of CO² emissions. Road congestion is largely caused by the Government keeping 90% of the tax, rather than spending it on the roads.
The small amount that is spent on the roads is mainly spent in a negative way and traffic is put into a straitjacket, as with the "Liverpool City Centre Movement Strategy".
The initial cost of implementing road pricing has been estimated by the Government as up to £62bn. Then there are the running costs - £5 of the daily £8 London Congestion Charge is spent on administration and enforcement. Why would anybody support wasting all this money on tax collectors and spy cameras?
Road pricing would be the greatest folly that Britain's politicians have ever inflicted upon the people, and would make the Poll Tax look like a brilliant idea.
The MTUA is part of a national alliance and a lot more on this issue can be seen on the "no tolls" website under "road pricing".
The Mersey Tunnels boss has retired and on the 1st, the opportunity was taken to publish in the Daily Post some propaganda about how tolls were essential as otherwise the Tunnels would be "overwhelmed by extra traffic". We wonder how the Runcorn Bridge with 4 lanes carries more traffic than the 8 lanes of the Tunnels. We have asked this question a few times. On one occasion a Merseytravel expert didn't even know how many lanes there were - he thought that there were 6!
One odd bit from the story is that it said that the disused Birkehead dock branch entrance "will become a makeshift mortuary in the event of a major attack". We wonder how this fits in with the secret plan to turn the whole of the Birkenhead tunnel into an aquarium? (Goggles provided free.)
The Big Dig is hardly ever out of the papers, and it seems that many people still believe that it will be better when the roadworks are finished. The master plan is of course to stop people using cars whatever the cost. One wonders how many people will bother to come to all the new shops. Though in the Daily Post on the 29th November, the people who represent the city centre shops said business is booming. The proof of whther this is true will be how many empty shops there are in what should otherwise be good years - 2007 and 2008.
On the 7th, Andrew from West Derby had this "Heads should roll"letter in the Echo -
"I DEFINITELY think that heads should roll regarding the mounting traffic chaos in the city centre.
We’re asked to leave the car at home and use the bus but the buses are stuck in gridlocked traffic jams, whereas motorists can use alternative routes.
Unable to access Lime Street and the gyratory bus station, many buses inconveniently drop off passengers at Commutation Row so that they can by-pass the congestion, while many outward bound ones by-pass the bus station or London Road, leaving people there in vain.
If the Big Dig resulted in improvements it might be worth the agony, but one look at the narrowed roads and awkward junctions in Skelhorne Street, Lime Street and Renshaw Street proves otherwise."
Saturday 25th November 2006
We are having a general meeting for all users of the tunnels at 7.30 PM on Monday 27th November at the Community Centre, Greasby. For more details of the location, see the top of our home page.
On Monday the Daily Post reported - "City rejected for 'pay as you drive' pilot". The Post says that "The bid argued Merseyside was an ideal location to pilot charging, because drivers already paid tolls on the Mersey Tunnels and would do so on the future Mersey Gateway crossing.".
The bid that Merseytavel and the other authorities submitted has only recently become public - Merseyside bid - It includes -
"From 2014, the projected opening of Mersey Gateway, access to Liverpool City will be subject to tolling from the south at Mersey Tunnels and from the south and east at Mersey Gateway. The River Mersey will become effectively a charging screen line over a 25 km length.", and -
"Merseyside has a history of managing road tolls through the Mersey Tunnels. This has included responding to the on-going campaign by grPoups opposed to the tunnels charges. Both officers and Members are therefore well aware of the need to manage carefully any scheme for extending ouser charging in the conurbation. This is especially the case with the low levels of congestion in Merseyside, compared to other UK cities."
Friday's Daily Post reported that "BUSINESSES in Chester are backing a call from the British Chambers of Commerce for road pricing". The paper also says that the "Chester & North Wales Chamber of Commerce are surprised by the level of support from local businesses for the idea of road pricing." Perhaps even Chester businesses will be surprised!
There was chaos following an accident at 5.30 PM on Monday when a lorry overturned on the exit road from the Wallasey tunnel in Liverpool. For some reason Merseytravel had not managed to completely clear this by the following morning's peak period. This meant that traffic exiting the tunnel in Liverpool had to go north along Scotland Road, and traffic coming south along Scotland road could not enter the Tunnel.
The lorry and load were not completely cleared till 3.15 PM on the Tuesday. There was additional chaos on the Tuesday morning following an accident on the M53 at Woodchuch between junctions 2 and 3.
Liverpool Echo - Tuesday - "Carriageway chaos after 8-car pile-up" Daily Post - Tuesday - "Tunnels finally back to normal" Liverpool Echo - Tuesday - "Accidents create road chaos" Liverpool Echo - Tuesday - "Rush-hour chaos as lorry tips over" Liverpool Echo - Monday - "Overturned lorry causes tunnel chaos" Daily Post - Monday - "Chaos as lorry overturns in tunnel".
On Wednesday, both the Globe and the Wirral News had a letter from Natasha of Leasowe. She was complaining about speedbumps in Gardenside, Leasowe. Her letter ended "It is high time Wirral Council took a look at the state of our roads across Wirral and started spending our money on tidying them up, not making them worse."
Monday's Daily Post had a letter from a Wirral councillor complaining about the danger caused by the "progressive narrowing of Market Street" in Hoylake. The reduction in road space is a deliberate policy, not only in Wirral, but in most of Britain. At least the councillor is in a position to raise it with his colleagues - though most of them are so anti roads, he had better wear some body armour!
Sunday 19th November 2006
A car sharing service has just started. Most people will agree that this is a good idea, though for various reasons most people will not be able to make us of it. If you can, then give it a try - after all the cost of administering it is probably being paid by you! Mersey Car Share.
Last night's Echo had a letter from Elaine of Liverpool who complained about getting a £60 parking ticket when she visited her mum and dad's house in Liscard on a Sunday". That beats the £2.60 that she will have paid in Tunnels tolls. The enforcement of many of these parking restrictions is just another way that the councils have of persecuting drivers and making some money. Who votes all these councillors in?
On the 11th June we reported on the abandonment of the Hall Lane by-pass. It was to be a new road for the last part of the link from the M62 to Liverpool City Centre. After 40 years wait the work was due to start, but the Royal Liverpool hospital said that it wanted the land to extend on when the hospital is rebuilt.
This Friday it was announced that the scheme had been resurrected - no they haven't taken pity on drivers - the reason is that they have now worked out that the hospital will be smaller - which they claim is not because of cuts or prvivate financing , but because of technological advances.
It's probably best to delay any celebrations about the road, as by the time that they get round to doing it, the whole road from the Rocket to the city centre will probably be reserved for cycles, buses and ghost trams!
The long awaited roundabout to improve safety on Telegraph Road at Thurstaston near the Cottage Loaf pub has been put back for several years. Councils seem to be very prompt at bringing in other roads changes that do little but delay drivers.
According to Wednesday's Wirral Globe, Wirral Council has "signed up to a declaration on climate change" and its saving in CO2 emissions will be the "equivalent of planting 850,000 trees a year". This apparently involves Wirral Council taxpayers paying more as the Council believes that all its energy is coming from "sustainable resources". The electicity companies must be laughing all the way to the bank (with our money).
By coincidence the Globe also has a letter about "Paying for global warming 'myth'".
The Globe also has a letter from Merseytravel responding to a letter about (non) replacement of bus shelters. The letter reminds us to ask - why do many bus shelters have an advert panel at one end which can obstruct the view of pedestrians stepping out into the road?
Having said that there is a letter in Tuesday's Echo complaining about the money spent on replacing glass panels!
Tuesday's Echo has a letter about "Rush hour delays" - (second letter).
Sunday 12th November 2006
Last night's Echo had a letter from a reader in Whiston. They suggest an "alternative motorway" linking the M62 to the city centre without (they say) demolishing any buildings. Inwards bound it would branch off Edge Lane by the old bus sheds / Littlewoods building, over the Edge Hill sidings, across Tunnel Road, down Upper Parliament Street / Parliament Street and on to the Dock Road. The other way it would go along Leeds Street, up Scotland Road and Hunter Street into Islington, onto Brunswick Road, round Low Hill and back into Edge Lane.
We don't know whether this is a good idea or not, the real problem is that the councillors and the planners have been destroying the roads system for the last 30 years. Vital road schemes have been abandoned or cut down, and land reserved for roads and improved junctions has been built on. It would need a drivers revolution to reverse all the negative changes and lost opportunities.
Saturday's Echo also had a letter ftom John of Aigburth adding to the complaints about the new traffic lights on the Strand - "whoever installed these lights lives in a dream world".
The Wirral Globe on Wednesday had a couple more letters on the "Invasion" of the traffic lights. One points to the energy wasted through both the lights and the consequent start-stop traffic. The other letter (from Rock Ferry) claims that there has been an incease in accidents since lights and other "traffic calming", measures were introduced.
The Globe also has another letter on the parking charges at Clatterbridge - with a £2 charge for parking that turned out to last only 5 minutes.
On Wednesday it was reported that a "£51m Deeside road scheme begins" - BBC. In reality, this is a Mersyside by-pass.
Tuesday's Daily Post had a letter from Ian of Mossley Hill. He wonders if Liverpool City Council inhabit a "parallel universe regarding Liverpool's regeneration ... I note, with utter amazement, that one lane of Water Street, which is now about the only way out of town, has been converted to a cycle lane...".
Joe Riley in his Echo column on Monday night was sticking his neck out (for the last time, probably) on the subject of Merseytravel - "Mr Scalextric (Merseytravel boss), yet to be spotted on public transport on car free day, has never the less been spotted behind the wheel of a gas-guzzling 4X4". We bet that it wasn't going through the no-go area of the Tunnels!
Sunday 5th November 2006
We are having a general meeting for all tunnels users, on the evening of Monday 27th November at the Community Centre in Greasby, Wirral.
During the week, Merseytravel issued a press release giving themselves a pat on the back for apprehending a suspected car thief going through the tunnels. They say "This is a fantastic example of our officers working with Merseyside Police to apprehend suspected car thieves. " This is another story from 2003 - BBC - "Tunnel crash deaths 'unlawful'".
During the week there was a lot about Climate Armageddon. The solution is apparently going to be to hit Britain's less well off drivers, including more tolls and road pricing. This will of course benefit the fat cats and have no effect at all on the climate.
On Friday, an Echo reader from Liverpool 27 gave their view - "WHEN the Americans, Russians, Chinese and Indians start doing something about global warming, then will be the time to start penalising us for our 2% contribution to climate change. Once again, it's a case of let's tax the motorist some more."
We managed to get two letters in the papers this week. Wednesdays' Echo had a letter about the £50 billion in roads taxes, and the Wirral News had this letter -
"You reported on the 4th October that Merseytravel have told the Tunnels police to issue more fines to drivers.
The Tunnels are the only roads in Britain which are policed by a private police force paid for with tolls.
What makes this more bizarre is that when Merseyside Police cross the river, they have to go through the territory of the Tunnels police. Would it not make more sense and be more efficient if Tunnels policing was part of Merseyside Police?"
Joe Riley's column in Monday's Echo was headed "It's the end of the road". He said "Merseytravel is destined for the scrapheap". We very much doubt that it is. There was another example this week of their powerful friends. It had been proposed that trains from the Midlands to Liverpool Lime Street would be allowed not to stop at Merseytravels' "Liverpool South Parkway". But on Friday it was announced that the Government would force trains to stop there.
This weeks' Wirral Globe had a letter expressing "disbelief" at the recent decison by Wirral Council to scrap a turning point on a slip road in Greasby, where they had permanently blocked one end off. This is of course all part of the masterplan to bring back the horse and cart!
Saturday 28th October 2006
Merseytravel is to be wound up according to a report in Thursday's Echo - "Mersey transport body to be scrapped". Merseytravel have a lot of powerful friends and it is most unlikely that any Government plans to scrap them will succeed. There is more chance that we will end up with the Tunnels still being run by some version of Merseytravel, and like them not directly elected, but with even wider powers. Though we are suprised that the Echo did not shed even one crocodile tear over the possible end of Merseytravel.
On Friday, the leader of the Labour Group on Liverpool City Council - Joe Anderson - said "I think public bodies like Merseytravel are in need of an overhaul. They have been run the same way for years.. There is very little accountability to the people of Liverpool for the way public transport is run." But Warren Bradley, the Lib Dem leader of the council, wants Merseytravel kept.
Monday's papers reported that Tories on Wirral Council want roads in Wirral limited to 20 mph - "Wirral move for 20mph side street speed limits". We thought that it was mainly the Lib Dems who were anti cars, but it seems that the new Tories are trying to out green the other parties. Will councillors of all parties only be satisfied when they manage to bring Merseyside to a complete standstill?
Thursday's papers had more wailing about the trams. This followed the Government promising to give Nottingham a gift of £400 million to pay for more trams. The Daily Post also says that the Government are still investigating how Merseyside managed to spend £56 million on the tram scheme before the plug was pulled. What a pity that we still can't find out how much of this is coming from tunnels tolls.
Merseytravel have started tours of some of the Tunnels buildings. Tours are each Thursday at 5.30 pm, with a charge of £3. There are no discounts for tunnels users!
On the 19th October, the Department for Transport published "North West - Regional Planning Assessment for the railway". It says that Merseyrail is doing well and gives one reason as "rail's competitiveness with road for cross-Mersey movements, where a toll is in place on the two Mersey tunnels".
The Echo had some letters following on from a letter the previous week about some adult cyclists riding on the pavement etc. One letter said that "it is a common misapprehension" that roads are paid for from road tax, and that they are "in fact" paid for by "drivers, pedestrians and cyclist alike".
But if we are talking facts then pedestrians and cyclists don't have to pay any taxes to use the road. Drivers have to pay £50 billion in taxes every year. Only about one pound in seven goes back into the roads. If we all got on our bikes or feet, then we might be fitter, but there would be a massive hole in the Government's finances.
Wednesday's Wirral News had a letter from Merseytravel about the cuts to ferry services from Woodside. It said that they had invested £20 million on the Ferries. We wonder if any of that did not come from the Tunnels tolls!
Wednesday's Wirral Globe had a letter - "Are our traffic lights starting to breed?" It ended - "Either age is catching up with me and I'm imagining that our traffic lights, pelican crossings, speed humps, bicycle lanes, narrowed thoroughfares and "modernised" light-controlled junctions are actually beginning to breed all by themselves, or our councillors and council officers have finally taken leave of their senses and want to bring our entire borough to a sudden, shuddering halt."
Monday's Echo had a letter from Liverpool 8 about new traffic lights in Liverpool city centre. The writer suggests that "whoever thought them up must be living on another planet".
Saturday 21st October 2006
More woe for Merseyside drivers over the last two weeks -
Yesterday's Echo reported "It's bus lanes - or else!". Merseytravel want a lot more bus lanes on routes into city centre, to the airport, and around Queens drive. The reason is to reduce congestion!
There was chaos on Tuesday when there was first of all a signal failure on Merseyrail, which meant that train passengers had to be bussed through the Tunnels. (Odd when you remember that Merseytravel don't seem to like buses using the Tunnels, and have twice rejected our proposal that buses should go free.) The chaos increased when there was an accident on the approaches to the Wallasey Tunnel about 5.50 pm - Daily Post - "Evening commuters face rail and road confusion".
Thursday 12th brought chaos as a cabbie stopped at the roundabout between the bottom of William Brown Street and the entrance to the Birkenhead tunnel. There were reports that the cabbie had a knife. While Merseyside Police talked to the man who was sitting in his cab, Merseytravel closed the tunnel for two and a quarter hours. For some strange reason there was gridlock in the city - Daily Post - "How a single taxi driver brought Liverpool city centre to a standstill".
We don't know the details of this and other incidents, but it seems that the smooth flow of traffic is the last thing in the minds of the authorities. Yesterday's Echo had some comments from Rex Makin, who referred to the above incident and the incident at the Rocket on the 28th September - "Liverpool is becoming known as "Gridlock City".... may I say on the whole we have a very efficient police force, but sometimes they go bananas."
It was reported on the 12th that Merseytravel were going to cut all ferry services from Woodside before 9.45 am. It seems that on average the service picks up 7 passengers and sometimes only 2 - Daily Post - "End to the early morning ferries 'cross the Mersey".
The announcement provoked a protest from the Friends of the Ferries who have over 750 members. They had the star letter in the Wirral News on the 18th. What we can't understand is why there are so few people on the ferries if they have so many friends?
This Wednesday's Liverpool Echo had a letter from Merseytravel reacting to criticism from the Echo on the 12th. Merseytravel say that the Ferries are "the most popular paid for attraction in the region" and referred to their "Spaceport" and their "highly successful leisure cruises". If the Ferries are such a success, then why is it that the Tunnels subsidise the Ferries rather than the other way round?
The Globe on the 18th had a letter about hospital parking charges. The writer had gone to Countess of Chester hospital to pick someone up from A&E - charge £2, and then to Clatterbridge hospital to deliver a specimen to the pathology lab - charge £2. The writer has now been invited to become a "member" of the Wirral Hospital Trust who meet at Arrowe Park hospital - parking charge £2. The letter ends "If the Trust continues with this extortion, I for one, won't be attending any meetings".
Wednesday's Daily Post had a letter from someone who's windscreen was shattered by a rock, apparently thrown from the Whetstone Bridge on the Wallasey Tunnel approaches the previous Thursday evening . The letter says - ".. The tunnel police officer who came to my aid said these incidents are not uncommon. Wearily, he added that they patrolled the area "but the kids just come back when we are not there." A legal colleague has since advised me to sue whoever is responsible for maintaining tunnel safety. Does it really have to come to that? Surely it would make sense to instal protective screening, CCTV cameras and/or patrol this area at the times when these incidents have tended to occur?"
There have been various stories on gridlock in Liverpool. Starting with the chaos on Sunday the 8th and Monday the 9th following road changes. This is the story in the Post anticipating the chaos.
Then on the 11th, we had the authorities telling drivers to keep out of Lime street or be banned - . Daily Post - "Drivers asked to avoid Lime Street". Rex Makin in his Echo column on Friday the 13th referred to those responsible for all the traffic paralysis and said "If a vote was taken, most people would sack the lot of them"
The BBC on 11th chipped in with "Motorists blamed for traffic jams".
Saturday 7th October 2006
From last week -
From Sunday 8th, the right turn from Water St into the Strand is permanently closed, you can still turn left.
There will be a new right turn for drivers coming out of the dock exit of the Birkenhead tunnel onto the Strand.
Though some of the changes may be beneficial, the overall aim of the so called City Centre Movement Strategy is to force drivers into less and less space.
On Thursday about 2 pm there was another accident in the Wallasey tunnel, while they had one tube closed and contra flow in the other tube. There was the almost inevitable chaos, with no traffic flowing through the tunnel for over half an hour. This practice of closing a tube during the day, increases the chances of accidents, and even without accidents the congestion builds up till they reopen the other tube just before the "peak" period. As fas as we know this happens nowhere else. We have tried to interest the newpapers in this issue over the last 5 years, but they appear not to share our concern.
Thursday's Echo had a story about resdents in Edge Lane drive who were to have got parking bays. The road is the first stretch going from the M62 to the city centre and is an accident blackspot. The authorities are spending £300 million on their "road plan". Apparently this money was not enough to pay for the parking bays, but by compensation they are going to spend money on landscaping and more speeed cameras.
Wednesday's Wirral Globe had a letter from a reader in Wallasey. She said that parking at Clatterbridge with all the yellow lines is now a "nightmare" and that the £2 parking charges are a disgrace. She wonders if all our taxes are siphoned off to pay for war in Iraq.
Wednesday's Wirral News had last week's story about Tunnels police being told to fine more drivers.
Wednesday's Echo had Merseytravel complaining that they wanted exemption from a proposed new EU law that would give compensation to ferry passengers who are delayed. No doubt Merseytravel will persuade MEPs to leave them alone, but wouldn't it be nice if Tunnels users got compensation for delays?
Wednesday's Echo had a couple of letters on Merseytravel's attempt to take over the buses, including this from someone in Liverpool 5 - "...If Merseytravel get their way could they in the light of the tram fiasco, the landing stage, still sunk, and all their little buses, going nowhere with little or no passengers, improve on the present situation? I think not."
Monday's Echo had a letter from John Jessop of Aigburth "Drivers Strand-ed", he was complaining about the congestion caused by roadworks 3rd letter. Friday's Echo had two letters suggesting that John get the train or bus. One of them also asks if he wants the "city returned to the militant hell hole of the 1980s". Difficult to see that there has been any net improvement for roads users since (or during) the 1980s.
Saturday 30 September 2006
Bits and pieces from last two weeks-
To a large extent we rely on the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo group of papers for information on the Tunnels and to air the views of us and others. But we have recently discovered that they seem to have proscribed our web site. A search of the web from their websites for Mersey Tunnels etc will give you all sorts of sites, but not ours!
Saturday 30th - Tonight's Echo had a letter from Chris Parr of West Derby about the traffic mess where Muirhead Avenue and West Derby Road join. Chris suggests that the problem is because the traffic marking does not allow smooth flow round the island and that there should be five way marking on the route to town down Millbank / West Derby Road. We doubt that the authorities will spend a few quid on a pot of paint. More likely that they will eventually spend a million quid on road works that seem to go on forever, and when they end leave drivers in a bigger mess than before.
There is also a letter from John Nolan of Woolton asking about all the new pedestrian crossings along the Strand. Could the answer be that they are intended to cause even more "horrendous" congestion?
Thursday 28th - The Echo asks - "Should we turn back the clock over bus services", and they have set up a special messageboard. Merseytravel want to take over control of all the buses. From the comments on the messageboard it seems that most people agree with them, though we suspect those agreeing won't be picking up the costs. Such a move would give Merseytravel a monopoly, and raises the possibility that we will go back to the days before bus deregulation, when there were no buses running through the Tunnels.
Thursday 28th - There was major chaos this afternoon over a wide area round the Rocket flyover. It was caused by a man threatening to jump from the flyover.
Thursday 28th - A woman from Adderley Street has managed to bring the Edge Lane development to a halt. The High Court have ruled that the compulsory purchase order on her home was unlawful. We have no knowledge of the rights and wrongs of the case, but it's all a farce. This road should have been improved one way or another (at one stage they wanted to build a tunnel from the end of the M62 to the city centre) 30 years ago. Even when this scheme is eventually completed there will still be problems as the authorities admitted at the public inquiry last October that "The scheme deliberately provides only very modest reductions in vehicle delays".
Thursday 28th - Merseytravel announced that they are going to spend £1.4 million on improving Birkenhead central bus station in Conway Street. When this was built, there was an award given for its design, even though it causes a delay for passengers on buses travelling along Conway Street to Liverpool, and other buses because of the cramped space are sometimes stuck trying to get to their stop within the station. We wonder if it will be better for roads users, after this latest improvement?
Wednesday 27th - Daily Post reports that they have a copy of an email revealing that Tunnels police are being told to issue more penalties against drivers - "Tunnels police target drivers" Editorial - "Make friends, not money".
What is not mentioned is that the Tunnels is the only road in Britain which is policed by a private police force paid for with tolls.
Tuesday 26th in Liverpool Echo, a letter from Zoe Herriot of Liverpool 3-
"... I was appalled to read Labour's environment spokesman demanding that the council bring in congestion charging that our city does not need or want. This would put at risk the life, new investment and jobs that have been brought into our city centre...."
Monday 25th - Albert French from Woolton in the Daily Post wrote about the problem of getting through the city centre to the Pier Head by bus and continued- "... Of course, the present councillors and officers have reserved parking places near their offices. The ferry service loses millions of pounds every year, which is paid by the Mersey tunnel income and this comes from the pocket of motorists. I would like to know how much it cost last year. I would conclude with an old saying: "When ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise"."
Thursday 21st - Nick Coligan reported in the Daily Post on the reluctance of most councillors to do anything about the traffic mess where Muirhead Avenue and West Derby Road join. Coucillor Steve Radford is pressing his colleagues to do something to sort it out and remove the misery for drivers and local residents. Though from what we have seen elsewhere, there is no guarantee that things would be any better after the usual road "improvements".
Wednesday 20th - Julie Flannery from Liverpool 19 asks in the Echo " Why is there no park and ride into Liverpool city centre".
Wednesday 20th - In the Globe there is another letter complaining about the new junction at Arrowe Park "roundabout".
If the plan was not to make things worse, then why did the authorities not have two lanes going towards the hospital, as you approach the junction along Woodchuch Road and then continue along Arrowe Park Road?
There was also a letter about the 66 per cent increase in "subsidised" school bus fares on the Wirral. It said "No wonder parents drive their children to school!".
Monday 18th - The father of a murdered woman caused chaos when he protested at one of the bridges over the Wirral approaches to the Wallasey tunnel. He was protesting after being told his grandchildren will not get Criminal Injuries compensation as their mother had convictions for shoplifting.
Friday 15 September 2006
There was another letter this week in the Echo about "whingeing" people from the Wirral. Tonight's Echo had a response from Colin of Liverpool 19. He describes himself as an "anti-commuter anxious to see 'Brick up the Mersey Tunnels'". He sort of defends Wirral from the earlier accusation, though he does say that people from the Wirral "may hurtle out of the tunnel and down Scotland Road at breakneck speed like they own the place". Perhaps the Echo may get a letter from someone who has only good things to say about tunnels users - maybe.
Todays' Daily Post had a letter from Paul of South Liverpool. He referred to last week's suggestion for a circular bus route in Liverpool city centre. He says that we used to in effect have this "prior to the opening of the farcical new bus station at Canning Place with .... buses from the south mising out most of the city centre and ... the distance away from any of the rail stations".
On Thursday there were 6 separate crashes involving 20 cars in the Wallasey tunnel. Fortunately it appears that only three people were injured - all described as "minor". The crashes took place between 12.30 pm and 3 pm. That is during the period when Merseytravel usually close one of the tubes on Thursdays (and Tuesdays). Whatever the cause of these 6 accidents, we would expect that the closure of a tube must increase the chance of accidents at some time. It is still a mystery to tunnels users why Merseytravel do this.
Thursday's Daily Post reported that "City to step up pressure on cars". The councils want to bring in tolls on more roads, though some of them seem reluctant to admit this.
The Post editorial was "Have some pity for city drivers ... There is no excuse for a congestion charge for Liverpool ..... congestion charging will act as a huge deterrent to Liverpool's attractions for tourism and inward investment, and should not be countenanced at any price". We agree, but wonder why the Post and particularly the Echo are fairly quiet when it comes to the plans for tolls to cross the river at Runcorn?
Next Friday is "European Car Free Day". Usually Liverpool City Council close some of the roads, but this year they are leaving them alone. Do they think there is already enough chaos?
Wednesday's Wirral Globe had a letter from PRE de Souza of Oxton. The letter was about "Wirral Council .. systematically destroying Wirral's road network" - "Council's anti-motorist policy 'a threat'".
Larry Neild in his column in Monday's Daily Post said that he didn't like travelling by bus - "If the chauffering classes and so-called powers that be want people like me to be attracted to public transport, they have got their work cut out. Except to them it doesn't matter because we pay them handsomely for not delivering in any case, so why should they bother."
Monday 11 September 2006
Thursday's Daily Post reported that work is to start next month on removing the subway that runs under Lime Street linking the main line station to St John's precinct. There will be more pedestrian crossings on Lime Street and Skelhorne Street. The width of the road will be reduced and the right turn from Lime Street into the St John's Centre car park will also be permanently blocked off. Why don't the council just block off the city centre completely?
The Echo on Wednesday reported that Liverpool residents thought that Liverpool city centre was not "easily accessible by public transport" and that the boss of Liverpool City Council has suggested a free bus that would circulate in the city centre. Thulani Sibandi from Vauxhall suggested that more buses could mean more congestion.
Last Wednesday's Daily Post had a Liverpool councillor demanding that all 40 mph limits in Liverpool should be reduced to 30 mph - "'Cut speeds' to give cyclists safe routes". How long before they want to bring back someone walking in front of vehicles waving a red flag?
"Mr Brocklebank" in last Wednesday's Daily Post suggested that the Liverpool City Centre Movement Strategy should be renamed the City Centre Static Strategy.
Oddly enough the previous night's Echo reported that two thirds of people actually believed that when the Big Dig was over things would be better - "City centre on road to success". Now what did Abe Lincoln say about fooling the people?
Last week's Wirral News had a picture of the Tunnel flyover in Conway Street Birkenhead that was demolished. They asked was it a good idea. Well we suppose it was if you want to cause congestion. Best of all is that the flyover was built with tolls money. We don't remember toll payers being consulted over its demolition. And we still wonder - who paid for the demolition?
Joe Riley's column in last Monday's Echo nominated Merseytravel as "joke of the week". The reason was that the "Biennial" organisers wanted to put a 50 foot neon "question mark" on the Wallasey Tunnel ventilation shaft at Seacombe, but are having to erect it at Cammel Laird as MT bosses said that the sign gave a "negative image". Perhaps they should check with users of the Tunnels what their image is.
Friday 1 September 2006
A few bits while we have been away:-
On bank holiday Monday, the Echo had a 2 page report on what a wonderful job Liverpool Council are doing to "keep the traffic flowing". As you might guess, the Tunnels came in for special mention. You might think from what is reported in the Echo every day, that there are no drivers on the staff!
The Tour of Britain bike race came to Liverpool on Wednesday. Though the riders were only briefly on the road, some streets were closed all day, and Castle Street was closed the night before. Good job that it was only drivers and bus passengers who were inconvenienced.
The papers have been giving free publicity to another "charity" road race through the Tunnels. This time it is the "Tunnel 10K" which will be going through the Wallasey tunnel on Sunday September 10th. What the papers don't say is that the entry fees go to the company that is organising the race.
The letters about whether Wirral is in Merseyside and whether the Open at Hoylake was a success have dried up (hopefully). Though it was nice that someone from Edinburgh took the trouble to write to the Globe saying "shame on all those who can only whinge" and giving "congratulations" to various organisations including Merseytravel.
Merseytravel opened up George's Dock Building on the 20th August for the day. The Echo published a letter thanking the Mersey Tunnels and mentioning "the move forward of technology and safety of our road tunnels". With letters like this, Merseytravel probably don't need their PR department!
The Wirral News had a letter about the injustice of hospital parking charges and all the money being spent on "barriers, railings, machines and yellow lines where they are not needed".
The Globe had a letter from Moreton asking that Wirral Council build a new coastal road (extending Leasowe Road towards Meols) to reduce the traffic problems. The chances of any real road improvements are unfortunately nil, as was demonstrated by what they did for the Open.
A quango called the "Northern Way" (set up by John Prescott and made up of regional development agencies) has suggested that they put tolls on the M62 to discourage traffic - Daily Post - "Drivers may face tolls to avoid M62 gridlock". What a brilliant development idea!
Reactions in letters in the Daily Post varied from an anonymous "Good idea" to "Another way to tax drivers". One anonymous letter not only backed the idea but said how "wonderful" the existing M6 Toll was.
The M6 Toll is a monument to politicians who only see roads users as a cash cow. The toll road is virtually empty, while drivers suffer from congestion on the M6 and other alternative routes.
Unfortunately on Merseyside, people have little alternative but to use the tolled Mersey Tunnels. That choice will be further restricted with the plans of Halton, Merseytravel and other councils to toll the existing bridge at Runcorn.
Now with this M62 toll proposal is the long term aim to create a toll barrier round, not only Wirral, but the whole of Merseyside?
To celebrate the sucess of the "Brick up the Tunnels" comedy which was seen by 18,000 people, the Echo has given away 100 t-shirts. Now what prize would the Echo offer if they really bricked up the tunnels?
Saturday 19 August 2006
Main story this last week must have been the man who walked across the river. No! - he wasn't desperate to avoid Merseytravel's monopoly - he did it for charity. Though as the mud and water only came up to five feet, it makes you wonder why the authorities said that they couldn't build a toll free bridge at Runcorn as it would cost them £750 million! Daily Post - "Giant crawls across Mersey".
Tuesday's Echo had a letter from our secretary, John McGoldrick:-
"Thursday's (Aug 10th) Echo had a "tongue in cheek" report from Paddy Shennan which referred to "whingeing" from the Wirral about tunnel tolls. You also asked readers "Is there something to be said for bricking up the Mersey Tunnels?".
No doubt that Merseytravel would gladly supply the bricks, but once the authorities complete their plan to toll the Runcorn bridges, to an increasing extent it is Liverpool that will be cut off from Cheshire and North Wales."
This week's Wirral News had a story about the musical "Brick Up the Tunnels" at the Royal Court. A reporter from one of the News's sister papers says "For every hoity-toity type who vehemently insists Wirral is part of Cheshire, there are 50 other decent, good humoured Wirralians, proud to be Merseysiders, who love Liverpool ..".
It is odd that a Wirral paper should air the view that someone who regards where they live as "Cheshire" or "Deeside" or whatever are "hoity-toity", and that people are not "decent" if they do not "love Liverpool". The News gave half a page to this without mentioning the tunnel tolls that really do divide many people in the Wirral from the rest of their family in Liverpool.
The musical seems to be doing well- "Mersey Tunnels comedy breaks theatre records". We like the Daily Post headline, but perhaps it should be "Mersey Tunnels tragi-comedy".
This week's Globe reports on closure of the Birkehead tunnel from 6.30 pm onwards on Thursday (10th). It says it was because a bus driver was suspicious of a rucksack (later discovered to contain tiles) that had been left on the bus. The tunnel was closed after the bus had exited the tunnel. Let's hope that we don't get too many people leaving things on the bus!
Saturday 12 August 2006
Brick up the Tunnels
Wednesday's Daily Post had a review of the comedy at the Royal Court.
Thursday's Echo had a full page "Should we brick up the Mersey Tunnels". This included "A study of the ECHO letters page will reveal much whingeing comes from the Wirral side, as in "Why oh why do I have to spend so much on tolls to drive through dirty, filthy tunnels". This was described as a tongue in cheek piece, but the Echo usually avoids the tolls issue, so why is it that the only time it refers to tolls it talks of whingers?
Wednesday 9 August 2006
Tonight's Echo had a letter from Andrew of Liverpool complaining that motorbikes could no longer use (without paying) pay and display spaces, but would have to use dedicated motorbike bays. He was told by the Council that "they were now going to enforce the law, because they thought it unfair to the motorists that the bikes could park free of charge". Andrew asks "Does anyone complain that it is free for motorcycles to use the Mersey tunnels?" The answer is that some people do, though it is not MTUA policy to increase the misery inflicted by Merseytravel and the councils. We are however amazed that the councils who milk tunnels users say that they want to be fair to motorists!
Another letter was from Pat of Wallasey who had been to see "Brick up the Mersey Tunnels". She ends "I am proud to say that I was born in Liverpool. However, we were pleased to see the Kingsway tunnel access remained intact, for our bus ride back to Wallasey." Perhaps someone should tell Pat that Merseysiders don't say "Kingsway" - only Merseytravel.
The Great Divide
Amost every day for the last 2 weeks there have been letters in the Daily Post about whether Wirral is part of Liverpool / Merseyside or not. Yesterday one letter was saying that Wirral was not part of Merseyside as the Mersey Tunnels were not a real link, though another letter warned Wirralites that if they kicked up a fuss, they would lose their bus passes! This is our view as published last Tuesday in the Daily Post:-
... One letter has said - "Wirral is part and parcel of the Liverpool city region", and another - "I am sure that the Dee / Cheshire brigade" visit to go to museums, art galleries, to go to work, university or to shop."
Wirral is of course part of the Liverpool city region, and people go to Liverpool for many reasons, not least because they have friends and family there. But the writers of these letters seem to live on the north bank of the river, and can travel into Liverpool without paying a road toll.
If Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester etc had a toll to go from one part of the city region to another part they would also feel divided.
Would the writers of these letters support the Government taking over the tunnels and removing the tolls? Or are they perhaps quite happy to see toll barriers between them and their Wirral cousins?
Monday 7 August 2006
A quiet week
This morning's Daily Post has a story "Plans for road tolls welcomed". They say that Government plans (leaked in yesterday's Sunday Times) for new toll laws were welcomed by motoring organisations - the AA Motoring Trust and the RAC Foundation. Those 2 bodies do support road tolls but they no longer represent motorists. The vast majority of drivers in Britain are opposed to tolls. The editorial in the North Wales edition of the Post seems to realise this, but the Merseyside edition doesn't have this. Is the assumption that drivers on Merseyside who have borne tolls on the Tunnels for over 70 years, and will soon have to pay tolls to cross the river at Runcorn, will put up with anything?
Friday's Echo had a letter "Fast tag nonsense" - "MY car was stolen last week and with it went my disabled mother's free Mersey tunnel fast-tag concessionary pass... I rang the tunnel authorities thinking that, if they cancelled the pass and the scumbag tried to use it, the barrier wouldn't open and this could provide a great opportunity to catch the thief or at least recover the pass...The receptionist would not even take the details from me over the phone; she wanted them in writing and furthermore she wanted £30 for a replacement or she would not cancel the pass.
I explained that I just wanted to stop anyone from trying to use the pass and would worry about replacing it later, but it made no difference - no money, no cancellation.
She said my 81-year-old war pensioner mum could claim the money back if the old pass was recovered. Tell me, can anyone see the sense in that?"
Last Thursday's Post had a two page feature on the Tunnels. One page was about the play at the Royal Court. The other page was a story which appears to have come from Merseytravel about them being given a small lump of rock from when the Birkenhead tunnel was built. There was of course no mention of tolls! Anyone got a lump of rock to lend us?
Traffic from Liverpool was held up in the Wallasey tunnel during Thursday's evening peak. The reason given by the Echo was bizzare - a safety check on a water main.
Over the last 2 weeks there have been conflicting letters about what sort of a job the authorities did in preparing for the Open at Royal Liverpool. There were some more in last Wednesday's Wirral Globe including-
- "Simple Thought" suggests using Tunnels tolls to restore train stations on the Wirral.
- "Waste of money" wonders why they spent so much money destroying the Arrowe Park roundabout, when on "the first day of the golf event there were two police traffic motor-cyclists guiding everybody around the island with a whistle each".
- Best or worst is from Sue of Wimbledon with her account of her train journey.
Saturday 29 July 2006
Another HOT week
While we have been basking in an untypical stretch of good weather, this is what has been in the news:-
Friday's Liverpool Echo had a report on the play "Brick Up The Mersey Tunnels", which is on the Royal Court from 3rd to 26th August:- "Ex-Brookie stars in tunnel vision". We're not sure whether it was written by Merseytravel or not!
Thursday's papers had the latest development in Liverpool's "City Centre Non Movement Strategy" with headlines of "Lime Street chaos on the way" and "Roadworks to add to city centre traffic chaos". The latest strategy to cause congestion is that from Friday the gap in the Lime Street central reservation will be blocked off. Drivers heading to St John's car park from the north will have to drive past the car park entrance, then head along Lime Street, then negotiate two sets of traffic lights, drive up Copperas Hill, then double back down Skelhorne Street, then past the lights again, then cross over Lime Street, and you are there!
Oh by the way they are also removing the parking bays in Skelhorne street next to the station.
Thursdays' Echo covered the removal this weekend of the footbridge over Edge Lane Drive, part of the main approach from the M62 to the city centre. Whatever the reasons for removing footbridges, the bonus is that it helps them to create more congestion.
Thursdays' Echo said that MPs, including 10 from Merseyside were demanding that Merseytravel and similar authorities be given power to tell the bus companies what to do. Strange really, as we recall Merseytravel used to own the bus operations and sold them for a small sum - £1? Perhaps it could buy them back.
Monday's Echo had a letter from someone in Bootle:-
"I WOULD like to know when the Sefton planners are going to get to work on the unsightly road humps, zig-zag lines, orange bike lanes which stop and start, speed cameras and white lines everywhere.
We have them in abundance in Bootle, but when I got to posh Crosby and Blundellsands, they don't. Is that, perhaps, where town planners live?
Also can someone also explain how making two lanes into one lane makes for a better road?"
Monday's Daily Post had a letter from Merseytravel's "Chief Executive and Director General". He was replying to a complaint from councillors about litter on the Wallasey Tunnel approaches around the time of the Open Golf. In our view some of this may be wind blown from elsewhere, but he says- "It is mainly caused by a minority of selfish Tunnels users throwing litter from their vehicles ...". We should be perhaps be grateful that Merseytravel do not say that all Tunnels users are an "anti-social element".
We missed what Merseytravel had said on the 12th July when giving evidence to the Transport Committee of MPs. (The committee are no friends to Tunnels users as most of them voted for the Mersey Tunnels Act.) Merseytravel told the MPs that "The powers that we have as a PT under the 1968 Act probably give us the powers to put a person on the moon as long as they start and end in Merseyside.". Nominations for lunanauts should go to Merseytravel Spaceport at Seacombe.
Saturday 22 July 2006
A HOT week
Most of Britain has been hotter than overseas resorts, we have also had the Open with a lot of visitors to the Wirral. The authorities have really pulled their finger out, but not necessarily to the benefit of roads users.
There was of course nothing to warn visitors of Tunnels tolls. The fact that the Tunnels are tolled is absent from road signs till you are virtually entering them, which must have visitors scrambling for change.
The Tunnels authorities have now reopened the first part of the hard shoulder as you come out of the Wallasey Tunnel and head for the M53. Will they close it again after the Open?
Monday's Echo and Daily Post featured new signs in Liverpool that said "For Open Golf - Use Wallasey Tunnel". The only sign that we noticed was on Byrom Street AFTER you had passed the entrance to the Wallasey tunnel and were heading towards the Birkenhead tunnel. Perhaps the authorities were unsure which Tunnel was which, as they insist on sticking signs up on the Tunnels which say "Kingsway" and "Queensway". This must confuse visitors who are also faced as they enter the Tunnels with umpteen other signs about tolls and rules.
A few letters in the Echo over last week, all from readers in Liverpool. One wonders who planned it so that "all three main arteries (Kensington, West Derby Road and Edge Lane) heading out of town towards the Rocket have closures at the same time". Another asks "WHO from the council decided it would be a good idea to block pedestrian access to the road from the tops of railway bridges in the Allerton area by placing railings along the pavement edges? ...Pedestrians are now forced to cross the road some distance away where vision is obscued.". Best is probably "WHO decided to create a bus lane on Park Road? All it has succeeded in doing is adding to the congestion in the morning rush hour." - We can answer that one, the idea IS to cause congestion.
Wednesday's Echo had "Fight fines, drivers told" where a Labour councillor for Liverpool's Central ward says he will support drivers hit by fines for using Lime Street or Renshaw Street. This is good of the Councillor, but difficult to understand as Labour control Merseytravel.
Friday's Daily Post had a letter "Motorists suffer in city". It was partly the usual list of grievances with the addition of the plan to reduce car parking spaces so that they can be given to car club members. There was also a letter from the Greens - praising the Council for backing car clubs. This only goes to prove that the scheme is intended to hurt the rest of us.
On the 21 June we reported the story from the Daily Post which said that the tram scheme was in the new "Transport Plan". Well on Monday, the Echo reported that "The trams are dead, long live the train". The same report says "AN investigation into whether London-style congestion charging should be brought to Liverpool is to be launched.
Merseytravel has asked ministers for £1.1m to carry out the study." and goes on to quote Cllr Millea, Liverpool Executive member for transport "We will not be bringing in a congestion charge in the next five or 10 years.".
So it seems that the tram scheme is both alive and dead, and we are going to have "congestion" charging and we aren't. The only thing that is certain is that they will spend a lot of money and things will be worse for roads users.
Saturday 15 July 2006
Bits and pieces
A woman driver died when part of the ceiling collapsed in a Boston toll tunnel controlled by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. This happened on Monday night, and on Friday an emergency Bill was passed with the Governor taking over responsibility:- Boston Channel - "1 Killed In I-90 Tunnel Ceiling Collapse" Boston Globe - "Tunnel ceiling's collapse could lead to higher tolls on turnpike" Milford Daily News - "Investigation could top $50M, former official says" Boston Globe - "Romney in command". If you look at the state of the road surface at the entrance to the Wallasey Tunnel, the greatest risk is probably below rather than above!
Friday night's Echo had a letter from Mark Hawksworth, an exiled Scouser (living in Conwy) on the planned tolls on the Runcorn bridges:-
"I WOULD like to highlight the future plans for a new Mersey crossing at Runcorn. From what I can find out, they are planning a toll bridge. The impact of this will be that for anybody from Runcorn and North Wales, they will have to pay a toll either at Runcorn or the Mersey tunnels to visit Liverpool.
Surely Liverpool council and business people must realise this will have a huge impact on visitors from these regions, many of whom originate from the Liverpool area.
Also, as North Wales is most probably the No 1 area for days out and holidays for many families from Liverpool, this smells of yet another way to get more money from the lower paid sector."
Wirral Council is to give big subsidies to staff who cycle to work or use public transport e.g. cyclists will get interest free loans of up to £800, grants of £100, and 39 pence for every mile they travel. Rumours that people who either walk or use cars will have their pay frozen and will eventually be sacked are probably untrue - maybe next year?
Two letters in this week's Globe about the traffic problems caused by the council:- "It's madness" and "Traffic problems need public debate".
The Globe also has a feature on increased council parking charges (inc 85 pence for one hour at Birkenhead). The Council say that they need the extra money to pay for "traffic calming measures". In other words they are using more roads users money to create more congestion.
Tuesday night's Echo had a letter from one of the many people collecting £30 fines for driving past the Adelphi along Lime Street:-
"There are no indications before reaching the junction that all traffic should go up Copperas Hill. Instead, there were two police officers at the end of the bus lane doing brisk business collecting money. I am not complaining about my fine - I made a mistake. I am complaining about poorly marked changes in traffic flow and the opportunism of the police to supplement their funds. For any visitors who fell into the same trap it would leave a poor impression of a "cultured city"."
Tuesday's Echo reported "Traffic link to end road misery". They have apparently resurrected the scheme for a link road between Switch Island and the A565 Road at Thornton. "Last year, the plan was controversially put on hold while Merseyside's transport chiefs focused on trying to get Merseytram off the ground." "Traffic link to end road misery".
The Birkenhead tunnel was closed and evacuated for a short time last Friday (7th). This was apparently because there was a van with a smoking exhaust pipe. Bearing in mind what happened with the recent major vehicle fire, we wonder how the Tunnels decide what is and isn't an appropriate reaction to risks.
Friday 7 July 2006
The last week
On Monday the Daily Post reported on Sunday's bike ride through the Tunnels which was sponsored by Merseytravel. The report says that £8,000 was collected for charity. We don't know what Merseytravel contributed, apart from closing the tunnels to users, but the main gainer seems to have been the company that organised the event. A team of up to four, on top of any charity donation, had to pay the company £44. A rather expensive way of avoiding tunnels tolls. "Cyclists brave the heat for 54-mile charity marathon".
Tuesday's Daily Post had a letter from us:-
"On Friday, a further letter from James Noakes may give people the impression that the MTUA is in favour of "road-user charging". For the record we are not in favour of any form of tolls and do not accept any of the arguments that he has put forward.
The Government already collect nearly £50 billion a year from roads users. Very little of that is spent on the roads, and where it is, then the aim of the authorities is to try and put traffic into a straightjacket by reducing the space available for cars. That is the cause of much of the congestion."
Tuesday's Echo has a pot pourri of letters:-
A letter from Kirby suggests halving bus fares and then halving them again to attract customers. They continue:- "As for bus lanes, they are dangerous. You'll travel in two congested lanes of traffic then all of a sudden your lane turns red. You move out and crash. No wonder motorists ignore them. The voice of the ECHO should be fighting national and local taxmakers over robbing the people and getting rid of bus lanes and trying to bring prices down, so we can afford this public/private transport."
There is a letter from Huyton about road humps:- "Someone somewhere is making good money out of road humps.
What about the damage humps do to our cars? And by driving in low gears you have exhaust pollution....Road humps don't stop speeding drivers or yobs driving stolen cars."
A letter from Waterloo is headed the "Blue badge con" and refers to the "48,000 blue badge holders in Liverpool alone".
John from Widnes says "I FEEL I have to complain about the ongoing Big Dig across Liverpool. For any motorist trying to make their way into the city centre, it is almost an impossible task at times. That is especially so if you are unfortunate enough to have to use Edge Lane or drive through Kensington. I understand that the pain now is intended to lead to pleasure in the future, but I can only hope that the bold predictions become reality. If not, the council will hear of it." - They already know, but while people vote for them they don't care.
From Woolton comes a complaint about the new car park by the new bus station - ".. the entrance and exit are placed at probably one of the most congested junctions in town, i.e. Park Lane and Paradise Street. It takes ages to get in the car park and even longer to get out."
It was reported on Thursday that Lord Chan of Oxton, who died earlier this year, is to be made a Freeman of Wirral. Lord Chan would have sat on the Committee that looked at the Mersey Tunnels Bill, but Merseytravel objected:- Daily Post - "Freedom of borough for people's peer and Bishop".
Friday's Echo had a letter on bus lanes and the police:- (first letter).
Rex Makin in his column deals with the worsening traffic situation caused by the authorities, and says "By the time the Capital of Culture year arrives we could well be called the Capital of Traffic Constipation with congestion charges threatened. I don't know who are the individuals responsible but when I think of them I am reminded of the song by Stephen Sondheim, Send in the Clowns."
Saturday 1 July 2006
Monday night's Echo had another in favour of "congestion charges or "road user pricing", they gave the example of London. By coincidence someone with the same name as the letter writer works for Wigan Council and their job seems to be to discourage people from using their cars. The Leader of Wigan Council is Lord Smith - the Manchester Lord who sponsored the Mersey Tunnels Bill!
On Thursday night, the Echo published a letter from us in response to Monday night's letter:- "... In January 2005 Transport for London in their Charging Impact Report (page 19) admitted that "Of those respondents who report change in Inner London, a slightly higher proportion say more time is spent travelling now than before the introduction of the charge". Londoners have to pay £8 a day for the privilege of this "benefit". It is not surprising that last week, Angie Bray, Tory spokeswoman on the charge, said: "His congestion charge is a charge on congestion that we once got for free."
Yesterday the same letter writer struck again in the Daily Post. He refers to "a vehicle free-for-all with rising traffic levels, profligate car use and increased damage to health, the environmemt and the local economy". It may have been tongue in cheek, but the writer seems to believe that we agree with him and support tolls.
Following Justin Dunn's nomination of the worst 10 Wirral roads, this week's Wirral Globe has a page full of letters under the heading "Our roads ARE in a mess!".
Wednesday 30 June 2006
Daily Post letters
There is a reply today (from John McGoldrick, our secretary) to the pro tolls letter in Monday's paper:-
"In Monday's paper, a letter writer says that those of us who referred to Edinburgh as rejecting congestion charging "misunderstood the debate" . He says it was rejected because Edinburgh were not first improving public transport.
I was involved in the Edinburgh Toll Poll, and it is James who may have misunderstood. The voters rejected congestion charging three to one because there was a long and full debate and they were able to see through the multi million pound spin campaign of the authorities.
People realised that most of the income would be wasted in the cost of collecting it, that drivers would divert onto unsuitable roads to avoid the tolls, and that city centre businesses would be hit. Though over 40% of Edinburgh households don't have a car, the people also realised that most of the congestion was caused by the actions of the council. Does this sound familiar to Merseysiders?"
There are two more letters on the traffic chaos caused by the Council:
- Allan Johnstone from Liverpool is particularly upset by Mike Storey's remark that the closure of Hanover Street will only affect buses and taxis. Allan says this is "another expensive unmitigated disaster" and refers to various other road schemes and many years of "untold misery .. disruption and confusion". (There was also a letter in last night's Echo from Bob Burton of Liverpool who suggests that Mike Storey should take a visit to Hanover Street to see the reality.)
- Chris Johnson from Birkenhead says "... I had hoped for a bit of common sense when Mike Storey was charged with ensuring that road schemes don't entirely cripple the city ... the laughingly misnamed City Centre Movement Strategy is starting to look like a sick joke ... surely it makes no sense to create congestion.."
There is as with most days, a letter crying over the demise of the trams and demanding money from the Government.
Monday 26 June 2006
Three more letters in the Post on the proposed Congestion charge and on road closures. "A bus pass carrying pensioner" from Huyton says that the road works have caused them "nothing but grief .. it has turned the city centre into an impossible maze .. from the day Mike Storey extolled the "positives" of this scheme, it has smacked of little more than a cyncical PR stunt." But the letter given the most space is from someone who is all in favour of more tolls.
Further Turning of the screw
From today the section of Lime Street between the Adelphi Hotel and Skelhorne Street, at Lime Street station, is to be closed to all but buses and taxis:- Daily Post - "More traffic chaos as cars banned from Lime Street".
A few weeks ago yet more traffic lights were installed in Greasby Road, Greasby. There are now 4 sets of lights in a stretch of just over half a mile. While installing the lights, they took the "opportunity" to narrow the side junction and close one end of a service road. So that vehicles could still use the service road, a turning circle was being built. But the Lib Dems are now boasting that they have stopped this work. It seems that either vehicles are to be given wings, or the road will be grassed over.
The family of cones causing a potential hazard on the hard shoulder a few hundred yards from the exit of the Wallasey Tunnel on the way to the M53 have now gone. Have they been stolen?
Friday 23 June 2006
Three more letters in the Post:-
One suggests more park and ride schemes to "stop people clogging up the city"
J Anderton says that it will harm city centre shops and businesses and ends "we will once again go into decline".
Someone from Aughton refers to the "usual moans about the presecuted over-taxed motorist", but suggests that instead of a Con charge there should be charges on "free" parking provided by employers.
Thursday 22 June 2006
Further turning of the screw - Echo thinks it is good idea
Tonight's Liverpool Echo says that Merseytravel want to introduce "red routes". These are used in London, and usually means that any cars stopping on these roads (some at peak times, others at any time) will be subject to heavy fines. It appears that Merseytravel intend to go one better - cars won't be allowed at all.
The Editor of the Echo thinks that this is a good idea as "Public transport is the answer to our congestion problems and everything must be done to make it as accessible as possible."
City Centre Closed - Soon
Larry Neild in this morning's Daily Post revealed that they are going to close Hanover Street from for a year and a half:- "Big Dig to block Hanover Street". The direct effect of this will be on buses and taxis, the indirect effect could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
Best bit was probably in tonight's Echo - "Suffer now for a better 2008".
Two more letters in the Post including this from us:-
"Monday's Daily Post reported that Liverpool City Council and Merseytravel were reluctantly looking at introducing so called "congestion" charging into Liverpool so that they could attract Government money. Who is kidding who here?
The Government realise that they will probably never be able to con the people into accepting the folly of widespread congestion charges or road pricing. That was proved last year when Edinburgh rejected the idea three to one in a referendum. The problem is that Merseyside politicians with the experience of the Mersey Tunnels in mind may be drooling over the thought of inflicting more misery on roads users while at the same time (they think) making more money for their pet schemes.
I hope that the Daily Post will not let them get away with this unchallenged. But I notice that the editor believes in the "success of the congestion charging scheme in London". That success is based on spin and not reality. Even Transport for London in their Impact Report (January 2005) admitted that "Of those respondents who report change in Inner London, a slightly higher proportion say more time is spent travelling now than before the introduction of the charge"."
Last night's Liverpool Echo had a letter about road works and speed bumps, from a "very disgruntled" Liverpool cab driver. They say "... after driving round the city and its outskirts, it feels like you have gone 10 rounds with Tyson.... there are many parts of the city that after the road "improvements" are a lot worse."
Wednesday 21 June 2006
Turning of the screw
In the Daily Post, Sam Lister reports on Merseytravel's latest 5 Year Transport plan. Amazingly it still includes the Merseytram project which was to be partly financed from Tunnels tolls. The paper says "Car drivers will be bottom of the list of priorities in the plan that will shape the region until 2011. Officials want to put pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport above private vehicles.":- "Fight for Merseytram not over".
Merseytravel say that a tram to Kirby will be needed if Everton move there from Goodison Park. Have the number of Everton fans fallen that low, that a tram will make all the difference?
The Daily Post has six letters on the proposal for a "Congestion" charge in Liverpool, including:-
Sonja Hughes from Allerton says that traffic will divert causing more traffic jams, pollution and "misery in our suburbs". Sonja also wonders what will happen with the Tunnels, where the traffic is forced to go through Liverpool city centre.
Another woman reader says "Driving into the city is not a lifestyle choice, for many it is a necessity, and an expensive one at that."
A Tory councillor from the Wirral suggests that the answer is "free rail, bus and ferry travel" (Could it be he lives near a rail station?)
And UKIP have a go at the Lib Dems for their hypocrisy for saying that they will only introduce Con charges if forced into it by the Labour Government, when Lib Dem local and national policies are anti roads users.
Tuesday 20 June 2006
Bidston Viaduct may be demolished
Liam Murphy in the Daily Post reveals that the Bidston viaduct leading from the M53 to the Wallasey tunnel may be demolished:- "Threat to vital M-way bridge". Though this appears to be part of the motorway, Tunnels tolls paid for a large part of its construction cost and the many repair jobs. It seems that where tolls are involved, spending is a bottomless pit.
The Post editorial seems to think that it would be a good idea to pull it all down and start again though "Yes, it would be expensive and hugely disruptive". Well, if you put it that way, the authorities would jump at the chance to cause more misery and spend more tolls.
Con charge Poll
The Daily Post has more today on the suggestion that there should be "congestion" charging in Liverpool. The case for is put by the Greens. They also suggest that Merseytravel could do something now "by gradually applying a "congestion premium" on the tunnel fees and reducing fees at other times"
Surprisingly the case against con charges is by the Chamber of Commerce - who usually fail to support the interests of roads users:- "Should Liverpool have congestion charging?".
PS The result was published a week later - 58% were in favour of charges and 42% against.
Monday 19 June 2006
Liverpool City Council and Merseytravel are considering introducing so called "Congestion" charging, so that they can get money from the Government:- Daily Post - "City drivers may face congestion charging".
You can see more about what the Government is after at the alliance that MTUA is part of:-
National Alliance Against Tolls - Road Pricing.
Tunnel accident 1
On Thursday there was an inquest into the death of a man from Bromborough travelling into Birkenhead who realised that it was going to go through the Tunnel to Liverpool. He opened the bus door, jumped off and died. Report in last Friday's Daily Post:- "Death jump from bus".
Tunnel accident 2
Last Wednesday morning, there was an incident in the Birkenhead tunnel when a driver became ill and lost full control of the car. A Merseyside policeman travelling the other way, turned round, chased the car and rammed it to stop it. Traffic was diverted to the Wallasey tunnel. Report in last Thursday's Daily Post:- "PC rams runaway car to avert a tunnel tragedy".
"Markings make no sense"
Last Wednesday's Wirral News had a letter from a reader in Prenton. They detail road markings which drivers frequently can't see, and changes that are for the worse:- "Those concerned should pat themselves on the back and quickly find another job where their talents are appreciated." We don't think this would have any effect as those who do this are just "following orders" from councillors who are anti roads users.
Sunday 11 June 2006
Tuesday's Liverpool Echo had this letter from Peter Fletcher in Great Sutton:-
"I WAS absolutely amazed at the response from the managers of Mersey Tunnels regarding the recent fire in the tunnel.
They initially insisted to the press that there was nothing wrong with the phones, and they had no record of any calls being logged. I, presumably along with many others reading at the time, smelt a rat.
Then some days later they admitted that there was a problem with the phones. This incident could have been a disaster.
Mersey Tunnels have a responsibility to ensure that strictest safety measures are in place.
I would like to ask the following questions:
1) On what basis did the managers initially establish that the phones were working? Did they consult a checking log for that day? Are there daily checks on the phones or hourly checks? What, if any, is their policy on checking the phones?
2) Why did the barriers remain down? Didn't the police intervene and lift the barriers?
Maybe Mersey Tunnels should completely rethink the safety measures in the Tunnel."
A company called Pennine Events is organising a Liverpool to Chester bicycle ride on Sunday 2nd July. The company website indicates that both Birkenhead and Wallasey tunnels will be reserved for the use of the cyclists for part of the day. Merseytravel as well as presumably providing the Tunnels free are involved in the promotion of this. There has been no announcement from Merseytravel about the closures, but it seems that Birkenhead Tunnel will be closed from about 9 AM to 10.30 AM. Wallasey Tunnel will be closed from about 11 AM to 1 PM.
Picture from the Past
Last Monday's Daily Post had a picture of the Wirral exit of the Birkenhead tunnel in April 1963, with just a few vehicles in sight. The caption said "a quieter scene than commuters today have to contend with".
A natural assumption to make, but the fact is that there are several million less vehicles using the Birkenhead tunnel now that there were in 1963, and frequently in the middle of the day the Birkenhead tunnel is virtually empty.
The problems that commuters have to contend with in peak periods are for three reasons:- toll collection, inadequate roads in Liverpool near to the tunnels entrances, and the twice weekly closure of one of the Wallasey tunnels tubes. If it wasn't for these then the tunnels could handle a lot more traffic. This is demonstrated at the Runcorn bridge, which only has half the lanes of the Tunnels but carries more traffic. Or at least it does now, when they build a new bridge, they are of course proposing to close two of the existing bridge lanes and toll the remaining ones.
Many of the best roads in Liverpool were built 70 or more years ago. Over the last 30 years there has been a mixture of a crisis of confidence and successful pressure from anti roads interests. The result is that many roads schemes have been either abandoned or watered down or actually made things worse for traffic. The latest development is the abandonment of the Hall Lane by-pass, this was be a new road for the last part of the link from the M62 to Liverpool City Centre. After a wait of 40 years the work was due to start, but the Royal Liverpool hospital said that it wanted the land to extend on when the hospital is rebuilt. Daily Post - "Transport plan in tatters but hospital goes ahead" Liverpool Echo - "What has happened to our new bypass?"
The Wirral News had a letter this week from someone in Meols. They said "all the traffic schemes throughout Wirral are harebrained and the people in charge should be sacked". The letter particularly mentions the "famous" St James chuch "roundabout" in Birkenhead, and all the changes done for the Open Golf - "narrower roads, more barriers and less parking"
Sunday 4 June 2006
This last week's Wirral papers had the issue of the mess that Wirral roads seem to be turning into. In our view all these letters and articles miss the point. There are exceptions, but most road changes nowadays whether in Wirral, Liverpool or elsewhere are not meant to improve things for traffic, they are meant to make things worse. There is no point complaining about individual schemes, what we need is a change in policy, and politicians:-
In the Wirral Globe we had Justin Dunn's nominations for the top ten Horror Highways:- "Snarl! Wirral's Horror Highways"
In the Wirral News we had a page full of letters about what they have done to the junction at Arrowe Park gates. It includes a response from Wirral Council who say that they have not finished, and when they do there will be "a much improved flow of traffic".
It seems that the blocking with cones etc of the first part of the hard shoulder as you come out of the Wallasey Tunnel and head for the M53 is going to be permanent as they have now put up a substantial sign saying the hrad shoulder is closed. Anybody who knows why they are doing this, please contact us. Are they gradually going to close the whole road?
The family of cones on the hard shoulder a few hundred yards further on are also still there. Again if anyone knows the answer to why they seem to be permanently blocking this area, then please contact us.
Friday 2 June 2006
Last night's Echo and this morning's Daily Post had a story with Merseytravel admitting that the emergency phone wasn't working during the Fire. They say that there was a fault in the phone connection which was "down to human error". They also say that "All other emergency procedures worked perfectly":- "We're SOS sorry"
Based on what we have been told, it is difficult to understand how Merseytravel could think that their "procedures worked perfectly". We have been in contact with Merseytravel and will try and tell you what happens.
Thursday 1 June 2006
Report in Wednesday's Wirral News:- "Drivers fleeing blaze in tunnel charged to leave"
Jim from Bromborough who was the driver of the taxi that caught fire in the Birkenhead Tunnel was on Tuesday's Roger Philips Show. He gave his account of the fire. Though the emergency phone didn' t work and the Tunnels Police didn't arrive for a quarter of an hour, he praised their efforts. He also said that before the Tunnels Police had connected up their hose, the Fire Brigade arrived and put the fire out.
Sunday 28 May 2006
More on Fire
This was the experience of one member, Lesley, driving through the Birkenhead tunnel from Liverpool:-
"I was right in the middle of the vehicle fire chaos. In fact we were among the last half dozen cars to come through from the Liverpool end. We had to get past the burning car, which was more than a little alarming. There was a bus just in front of us and I think the driver was having serious doubts as to whether he should pass it with passengers on board. When we went past it there was a huge amount of smoke billowing out of it and the fire had spread right down to the tarmac. We were scared stiff that it was going to explode while we were going past it.
This was all happening quite near the Liverpool end of the tunnel, about 100 yds in approx. However when we got out the other end, they were still letting traffic into the tunnel. We could not believe our eyes. It was only as we were about to emerge that we even saw a Police car with its sirens and lights on.
I made the deliberate move of going to a staffed booth. I said to the young lady inside that I could not believe that they were still letting people through as there was a serious fire in the tunnel and people would not be able to get out the other end. She said that they couldn't understand it either, as people had been telling them what was happening.
Why were they still letting people through? Why didn't they know quicker what was happening, considering they have cameras throughout the tunnel? Why weren't the booth staff communicating with the Tunnel Police? Apart from why didn't they open the toll booths so that people who had obviously paid to go through were trying to get back out again? It would have been obvious that they weren't coming through from Liverpool because that traffic had stopped completely."
Friday 26 May 2006
During Wednesday evening's peak the Birkenhead Tunnel was blocked by a vehicle fire. Traffic initially had to queue to pay the toll to escape:- Liverpool Echo Thursday - "They charged us to flee tunnel fire" Daily Post Friday - "Tunnel Jammed in Blaze Alert".
We repeated on the 27th October last year the general advice from the AA of what to do in the event of a tunnel fire, but it appears that didn't happen for some reason. There may also be an issue of whether the traffic diverted to Wallasey tunnel would have got through quicker if it hadn't been for the tolls.
This is the experience of one tunnel user - Clare - who goes through the tunnel on the bus:-
"The fire went to prove how much chaos can be generated with tunnel problems at peak hour.
I was walking from work to the bus, and saw the two fire engines go into the Birkenhead tunnel. I waited at Sir Thomas Street for 10 minutes and then decided to walk to the stop at Dale Street.
After waiting for 20 minutes it became apparent that there were no buses coming through from the routes normally using the Birkenhead tunnel. I managed to catch a New Brighton bus and get a lift from New Brighton otherwise I would have been stranded in Liverpool.
I must have boarded the bus about 5.15 or so, it took until 5.55 to get to Exchange Street East, and it was about 6.10 before we entered the Wallasey tunnel. I eventually arrived home at 7.05. If someone hadn't have been there to pick myself and a neighbour up, it would probably have added another hour to the journey as I made my way across the peninsula.
The engineering work on the Liverpool loop meant that the rail system was compromised, with all rail passengers piling into James Street, thus exacerbating the problems encountered with the tunnel fire. Several people got off our bus and attempted to catch the train, adding to the overload on James Street, I would think this may well have had health and safety issues as extra passengers on the station attempted to find a way home.
Whilst I am aware of the unusual circumstances surrounding the incident, there were absolutely no police along Dale Street, Sir Thomas Street, Tithebarn Street or any of the route followed by the bus attempting to get through to the Wallasey Tunnel. The only assistance received by the driver was by a member of Arriva staff preventing him turning into Victoria Street to try and relieve the traffic congestion around the Old Haymarket roundabout, which was very commendable. I did see a police van turning into Dale Street at one point, but there were no officers on foot or on points duty, apart from a policewoman turning traffic away from the Birkenhead tunnel
I think it's fair to say that Liverpool city centre turned into a car-park for at least 2 hours with complete gridlock."
Rest of the week
Larry Neild in his column in Moday's Daily Post wrote about the "Road to nowhere". It was inspired by the suggestion from Mike Storey that they bring in even more "experts" to look at the effects of the "Big Dig". Larry says that the so called "City Centre Movement Strategy" is just a "Gridlock Charter" and that those in charge want to turn the city into a "no-car town".
Thursday's Echo had details of the Big Dig for the next five months. Work includes creating a right turn on to the Strand from the Dock exit of the Birkenhead tunnel:- "Five months of jams on Strand".
Monday's Echo had a big splash about a new "car club" in Liverpool which apparently is being sponsored by Liverpool City Council. For some reason that is probably only understood by the super intelligent, cars are apparently Green if they are run by a car club company. In London, they are exempt from the "Congestion" charge, will Liverpool exempt them from tunnels tolls?
Sunday 21 May 2006
Cones fixed with superglue?
Three weeks ago, we mentioned the massive barricade (with hard shoulder closed) round the weight restriction warning sign as you come out of the Wallasey Tunnel and head for the M53. Well the weight restriction has now been partly removed (it only applies to one lane), and the sign has gone. But the barricade and closure of the hard shoulder remains! They are also still using the stretch of hard shoulder a few hundred yards further on as what seems to be a parking place for cones.
Blocking the hard shoulder is potentially a hazard to safety. Are they planning on permanently closing the hard shoulder? Perhaps someone can tell us of any other stretch of road where the hard shoulder is obstructed for no apparent reason.
In Wednesday's Wirral News, a veteran bus driver descibed the new Arrowe Park junction as "the worst thing I have ever experienced on the road". Wirral Council say "We would like to reassure all motorists that once work is completed the scheme will see a much improved flow of traffic through this busy area.":- "Road system is chaotic, says driver".
Councils seem to live in some fantasy land. We can't believe that they always get it wrong, so assume that what they do is designed to made it worse for traffic.
The Wallasey Tunnel was closed for nearly an hour on Tuesday while they towed out to sea a World War Two 1,000 lb bomb. According to the Daily Post it was "lying on the river bed above the course of the Wallasey Tunnel". Though it seems that the tunnel must have wandered a bit as the bomb was actually found in the Birkenhead docks, by the Twelve Quays terminal. As far as we know the Birkenhead Tunnel was never closed while the Luftwaffe blitzed both sides of the river:- "Harmless blast ends day of bomb chaos".
Sunday 14 May 2006
More Congestion created by the authorities
On 22nd April we mentioned the replacement junction at the Arrowe Park roundabout and asked "Did someone really think that it would reduce congestion if the stretch fron the junction to the hospital started off with only one lane?" It would appear that ambulance workers agree with us as the main story in the Wirral News on Wednesday was:- "Lives are at risk". It appears that the bosses at the Council and the Ambulance Service don't agree with us or the workers.
Everyone knows that the Big Dig in Liverpool is designed to bring traffic to a halt both before and after the work. Strangely it appears that Mike Storey the ex Liverpool leader has just realised this. According to reports in Saturday's Daily Post "Plea to avert gridlock as fresh traffic chaos looms" and Echo "Comgestion may be worse after the £73m Big Dig", he has asked for an independent review of what is happening. We fear that it is too late.
Tuesday 9 May 2006
Merseyside by-pass - Again
We reported on the 22nd March last year that the Daily Post had said that the A550 road "between Wirral and North Wales is to be improved". The reality was that the road being improved was the A550 going from Deeside Park and continuing along A5117 to the start of the M56. It will mainly benefit traffic going in the direction of Manchester. Wirral will just be a side road, with even horse riders and cyclists going in the A5117 direction being able to stop traffic travelling from Merseyside to North Wales. This morning the Government have announced the scheme again! Press release
By coincidence Larry Neild in the Daily Post reports that Merseyside may also be by passed by trains. Network Rail has unveiled plans for trains travelling at 186 mph from Britain's major cities to London. The major cities are:- Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. There will be no fast trains for Merseyside, so people from Manchester will get there twice as fast as us. The Liverpool Chamber of Commerce though say that Liverpool would "reap the benefits". More time to drink the coffee and read a magazine?
Sunday 7 May 2006
Yesterday the Daily Post reported that the auditors are to look at the trams scheme, and in particular how Merseytravel came to spend £56 million or so on a scheme that was eventually scrapped because the Government would not give financial help. The Post says that if all three tram lines had gone ahead it would have cost £900 million. It also reminds us that the £56 million will come from "reserve funds and revenue from Mersey Tunnels". Nice one.
The Daily Post is still supporting the trams and Merseytravel and blames the Government, though the Post has never said exactly when it was that the Government indicated to Merseytravel that it was going to cough up any money.
Only one we spotted this last week. Thursday's Echo had one from Mark Cotterell of Liverpool 3 who asks:- "Whoever decided to waste money making Tithebarn Street two-way needs their head examining! Between 4-6pm each weekday, traffic is backed up along Tithebarn Street and Bixteth Street, heading towards the tunnels and yet not a single car can be seen using the new unnecessary lane."
Friday 5 May 2006
Yesterday's local council elections resulted in almost no change on Merseyside. Labour will still control Merseytravel and the Tunnels. There were only two Merseytravel councillors from the Liverpool or Wirral who were standing for reelection. Both of them Liverpool Lib Dems, and unfortunately they both won (not that their opponents would necessarily have been any better).
All of the parties ignored the issue of the tunnels, and the local news media let them get away with it. We had contacted the leaders of the main parties in Liverpool and Wirral, but only got a reply from the Wirral Tory leader - he said that his group believed that the Tunnels should be part of the national road network and toll free, in the meantime they believe tolls should only be spent on the tunnels. There was only one candidate who we particularly endorsed, as she has been a strong supporter of tunnel users - Leah Fraser who was standing for Liscard - she won, but may have done so anyway!
Sunday 30 April 2006
The week that was
Larry Neild in Monday's Daily Post referred to the Big Dig or as he says "The Big Gridlock". As he points out where the Dig has finished things are worse than before. He ends by suggesting that the "Welcome to Liverpool" signs should be replaced with "Liverpool's Big Dig is proudly sponsored by Cheshire Oaks, the Trafford Centre and Manchester."
Wednesday's Echo had a letter from Merseytravel's "Chief Executive and Director General" which says that tunnels tolls are NOT "funding Liverpool's Capital of Culture". Well that's a relief!
The Wirral News had a letter from someone in Upton, who asks why the 4 Wirral MPs did not support Tunnels users during the recent closure.
Thursday's Runcorn Weekly News has a report on Halton Council's transport plans, including tolls "based on the current Mersey Tunnel tolls" on the Runcorn "Siver Jubilee" bridge:- "Taking the strain".
Friday's Daily Post had a letter following the latest threats for tolls on all roads - "It appears the Green Party's answer to Global warming is to price the working classes out of the skies and off the roads. A bit like the so-called good old days."
On 12th November we repeated some of the emails that we had had including "Why is there a massive barricade (with hard shoulder closed) round the weight restriction warning sign as you come out of the Wallasey Tunnel and head for the M53?". Then on the 16th December we reported that it had gone. Well it seems that it was only having a break over the Xmas holidays, as it reappeared soon afterwards, but this time possibly even bigger with more signs warning of the closure of the hard shoulder etc. Well now the weight restriction warning sign has gone again, but the barriers and the hard shoulder closure remain.
It may be that these cones have a mind of their own, because a few hunderds further on for several weeks there has been a set of 6 cones forming a barrier across the hard shoulder. Are they there to guard each other? Are they Daleks in disguise?
Saturday 22 April 2006
The last week
Wednesday's Echo had a reply from us to last Thursday's letter "Wirral Moans" from a reader in Garston.
John McGoldick for Tunnels Users said - "The growth of Liverpool was mainly due to the port, a port that included facilities on both sides of the river. The city outgrew its administrative boundary, but by a series of Acts it took over places like Walton on the Hill, West Derby and of course Garston. The city tried and failed to take over Bootle, and of course does not include places like Kirby and Halewood or the Wirral.
But the essential difference between all these places is that road travel into Liverpool is free, unless you are coming from the direction of Birkenhead and Wallasey. You then have to pay a toll. A road toll which is the fourth most expensive in Britain. The tolls inhibit people, from both sides of the river, visiting friends, family or leisure facilities on the "other side".
Perhaps the reader from Garston will join with us in calling for the Tunnels to be part of the normal road network, and this toll barrier between the two parts of Merseyside removed.".
There were two further Tunnels letters in the Echo from readers who among other things seem to believe that people on the Wirral get free bus and rail passes paid for by the people of Liverpool.
Wednesday's "Mr Brocklebank" column in the Daily Post ended "The usually opportunistic Halton Council has missed out on a tourist chance with the recent closure of the Mersey tunnels, which forced thousands to head for the Runcorn bridge. They should quickly have erected signs on the M56 saying "Scenic route to Liverpool"."
Thursday's Post had a letter about drivers in Ellesmere Port being targetted for emission checks. Joe ended "They would probably find that just one large jet landing at Liverpool airport is causing more gas emission than all the cars in Ellesmere Port put together."
Wednesday's Wirral News had a story about "Major road schemes" designed in part to "reduce congestion". Wirral Council must be living in a fantasy world, as their schemes seem to be designed to create as little improvement as possible to vehicle movement. For example, the new junction that has replaced Arrowe Park roundabout. Did someone really think that it would reduce congestion if the stretch fron the junction to the hospital started off with only one lane?
Friday 14 April 2006
Rest of the last week
Wednesday's Echo and yesterday's Daily Post reported that the immediate prospect of further Tunnels closures has gone. At national level, the unions and local authorities have resumed talks on pensions:- "Strike plan to close tunnels called off ".
Simon Drury in yesterday's Runcorn Weekly News reports that anti toll protests may stop building of another bridge at Runcorn:- "Don't ruin this for us". Do they mean us?
From today the rail loop in Liverpool City centre is closed for 7 weeks. Wirral services will end at James Street.
- Monday's Echo had this from J Moran of Liverpool 25:-
"REX Makin thought they must have 'gone bananas', and ECHO reader Paul Faulkner wrote about their 'traffic lunacy'.
Who are they? No prizes for guessing that both were referring to the city's road improvement engineers. How could these people get things so spectacularly wrong?
Who for instance decided to axe one traffic lane along Lime Street at its narrowest point, just to provide parking for a handful of vehicles, and then leave enough pavement space outside the Adelphi Hotel to land a light aircraft.
This lane closure is the root cause of every bus snarl up in Lime Street, no wonder frustrated drivers are calling this bottleneck 'breakheart pass'....."
- On Tuesday C Taylor from Greasby wrote in the Echo:-
"... The closure of the tunnels has a terrible effect on small businesses in the area. I fully sympathise with the cause of the protesters but removing the toll and making the tunnels part of the road network would boost the local economy and therefore generate more tax revenue for pensions in the long term."
- To complete the hat trick on Wednesday from Anne Jackson of Heswall we had:-
"The closure of the Mersey tunnels following the strike caused me to reflect on where the money we pay towards the upkeep of the tunnels goes. It seems to me that all the benefit is seen by Liverpool people rather than people on the Wirral...." (For the record, the MTUA is opposed to the tolls, it makes no difference where they chose to spend the money.)
There was a rapid reply to Anne's letter on the Thursday from someone in Garston under the heading "Wirral moans". the gist of it was that Liverpool had all the amenities and "the citizens of the peninsula will forever be in debt to us".
- The Wirral News had a letter complaining about the Tunnels closure during the strike. The writer suggested that the police or army should take over to make sure these "economic arteries" are kept open. The "bullying" unions were blamed for the closure, but as the bosses were on strike and the politicians don't like Tunnel users, we don't think that the unions needed to bully to close the Tunnels!
Tuesday 11 April 2006
The Daily Post had a debate and on line vote on "Should strikers leave the Tunnels alone?". The result in this morning's paper was 68% said "Yes", and 32% "No". There were some comments including from Andrew Callister of Liverpool:- "The workers should not be blamed. It is the politicians who are to blame, and if they were so worried about the disruption, why couldn't they find a way to keep the tunnels open?"
Saturday 8 April 2006
More of this week's papers
Tuesday's Daily Post had a letter from someone in Aughton who started off saying that it was wrong for Macmillan Cancer Relief to be calling for free car parking at hospitals, and then made various comments on car use with reference to "the Mersey Tunnels Users". Here is part of a reply published on Friday from Dave Loudon.
" ..The reality is that most forms of transport are subsidised apart from cars.
Pedestrians and cyclists use the highways with no charge. Trains are massively subsidised. Buses pay little tax, and benefit from bus passes and subsidies for some routes. Air travellers pay almost no tax.
But drivers of cars, vans and lorries pay one billion pounds tax a week to Gordon Brown. What he gets on Mondays is spent on the roads (including pavements, cycle lanes, bus lanes etc). What he gets the other 6 days he gets to keep. This leaves him with over £40 billion to spends on schools, hospitals, benefits, the war in Iraq etc.
If those who don't like cars (which seems to include the politicians who run the city) succeeded in stopping car use, what then?
Where would Gordon get the lost billions in taxes? Where would the increased subsidies come from for more trains etc? How many more people would expect ambulances for transport to hospital or "free" dial a ride buses etc?
The writer also welcomed the news that the existing and proposed Runcorn bridges would be tolled, and hoped that tolls would be high enough to discourage car use. I suggest that if the authorities have their way, then the new bridge may be a white elephant. People and businesses will just move away from the Mersey toll barrier."
Tuesday's Daily Post also had a letter from Joe Shaw of Liverpool 4:
"On the proposed new bridge across the Mersey, I thought if another bridge replaced or added to an existing bridge which wasn't tolled, then no charges would be made. Why is the new bridge across the Dee near Queensferry free?
Next time any union action threatens to close the Mersey tunnels, the Army should be brought in to keep them open."
Simon Drury in Thursday's Runcorn Weekly News had more about the new bridge:- "Don't make us pay".
Larry Neild's column in Monday's Daily Post was all about "Crossing the River". Larry says that there should be no tolls on any of the crossings, but thinks that they "will never be removed". As for the new bridge, he says that because of the plan to toll it and the old bridge - "The good news is that the new bridge won't be opened until at least 2014."
Friday's Daily Post has a story about "Traffic wardens to get police powers". The Editor thinks that this is a "Mixed blessing" and says: "Merseyside's motorists are some of the most put-upon in the UK, between the Big Dig, extortionate tunnel fees and the woeful city parking facilities. Compounding that by such a ruthless policy towards minor parking infractions has long been a triumph of greed over common sense."
Wirral weeklies - Wirral News had the story about possible further strikes.
Globe had a letter from "Angry Wirral resident!"
Use Army to keep tunnels open
I READ with disgust that the Mersey Tunnels may be targeted again in the recent and forthcoming strike action due to their high impact and disruption caused.
Now we all know that there is a problem with pensions and that everyone will have to work longer due to the ageing economy and we are all upset about it, but this sort of action should not be tolerated.
The Mersey Tunnels are the arteries to the Merseyside and Wirral economies and to have them closed is ridiculous.
What should happen is for the Police or the Army to take control of the tunnel during times of dispute and the barriers raised, allowing free flowing traffic...."
Wednesday night's Echo had a letter saying "...isn't it time that Labour and Lib Dem councillors joined with the Conservatives to press for the tunnels to be part of the national road network?". Not surprisingly the letter came from a Tory candidate in the forthcoming elections. The reality is that the position of the parties is vague and they fudge the issue. Will all the candidates make thier views clear?
Thursday's Echo had a letter from Mark Woods of Liverpool: ".... I am sure that most people would support the worker's pension rights, but these kind of strikes have a terible knock-on effect.
Liverpool suffered enough through strikes in the past and although they can be effective, the rest of us should not be made to suffer.
I can only hope that some resolution can be reached before the next planned action on April 27, otherwise it will mean widespread misery. It is difficult enough for Liverpool workers just to get to and from work at the moment."
The traffic chaos in Liverpool city centre late on Tuesday was not down to the Tunnels authorities - At least not as far as we know! Congestion was caused by the closing of M53 after a lorry carrying a JCB hit a bridge near Junction 2 (Moreton spur).
Friday 7 April 2006
Tunnels not closed?
Last night's Echo and this morning's Daily Post report that if there is another strike, Merseytravel may keep the Wallasey Tunnel open.
Bob Gregson, of the GMB union told the Echo: "Although it 's unfortunate we've caused all the chaos, it's entirely necessary for us to demonstrate in this matter. It's not our decision to shut the tunnels, it's the management's.":- Echo yesterday - "Tunnel to open in next strike".
Wednesday 5 April 2006
Another Tunnels closure?
There are to be further one day strikes of local government workers spread between Tuesday 25th and Thursday 27th April. It has been said that this will include a one day strike affecting the Tunnels on the Thursday:- Daily Post yesterday - "Date set for new tunnels strike". Merseytravel have a lot of time to make arrangements to try and keep the Tunnels open, but we don't know what they will do.
The Daily Post has a debate and vote each week. This week it is "Should strikers leave the Tunnels alone?". As of Wednesday morning those voting "No" and who support closing the Tunnels have a small lead.
Please vote "Yes" on the Daily Post home page:- (The vote box is part way down the page on the right).
That Bill again
Merseytravel must have spent a lot of time and money getting the Mersey Tunnels Bill through Parliament. Though when asked in the Lords committee, they said that they didn't know how much. That was 2 years ago, but Merseytravel got a mention and quote from their boss in this morning's Times for their use of a law firm to lobby for them on the Bill. What the Times does not mention is that all this was paid for out of Tunnels tolls. In effect the condemned had to pay for the bullet.
Sunday 2 April 2006
A BUMPER BUNDLE!
Yet again more hype about a new bridge at Runcorn. The Daily Post seems to have fallen for the trick of the authorities and business interests and again calls it a "Second Mersey crossing" and a "Gateway". We can understand them forgetting the crossings up river from Runcorn at Warrington and the Thelwell viaduct, but how do they forget the road tunnels, the rail tunnel or even the ferry? Daily Post on Wednesday - "Government approves second river crossing" "Mersey Gateway gets go-ahead at last ". Runcorn Weekly News on Thursday - "Bridge gets green light ".
You will see little reaction to the bridge being tolled. The Post editoral is headed "Bridge is vital for region's future", it manages to use up over 300 words without using the "t" word. It mentions that the "tunnels are managed by an organisation with little sympathy for the needs of the motorist". We agree (though this is an understatement). But don't the Daily Post know that Merseytravel are part of the consortium sponsoring the new bridge? And do they really think that a privately financed and operated crossing will be run for the benefit of roads users?
The Liverpool Echo on Wednesday also joined in the bridge hype. The editor did mention that it would be tolled, but said that "toll charges are responsible and not off-putting". We wonder how many Echo readers, other than fat cats, the authorities and the green brigade would agree with him? At one time the Echo was strongly opposed to tolls, we wonder what happened?
On Thursday, the Daily Post published a comment from us, about the bridge being tolled and the plan to put a toll on the existing Runcorn bridge and reduce the lanes and the fact that the existing 4 lane free Runcorn bridge carries more traffic than the 8 tolled lanes of the Mersey tunnels. The authorities reacted with promises of "big discounts for local residents" Daily Post - "Toll discounts pledge for new bridge over Mersey ".
More on Tuesday's closure
The local authority workers pensions strike was widely reported, but the aspect that seemed to get most attention in Britain and around the world was the closure of the Tunnels. There were over 100 news reports on Google including this from the Guardian - "Travel boss joins his workers on picket line".
Daily Post on Wednesday - "City counts the cost of one day of action"
The Tunnels bosses say that they will close Tunnels again: Liverpool Echo on Wednesday - "I'll close tunnels again if I have to" Daily Post on Thursday - "No U-turn over tunnels closures".
The Wirral weeklies - Wirral Globe - "Union boss threatens there could be more tunnel closures ahead" Wirral News - "More strikes on the cards".
Passport to Pimlico? On Wednesday "Mr Brocklebank" in the Daily Post suggested that Wirral is so isolated it should declare itself independent. He also said that we had tunnels because of Hitler - This is not completely true - The first crossing was a tunnel because of a perceived risk from bombing, but also because it was thought that a bridge might affect shipping. And when they decided to build a new crossing in the 1960s, the experts recommended that they should build a bridge. The authorities ignored them - they must have grown fond of tunnels.
The weekly News in Halton reports that a local garage offered a free breakdown service on the bridge for the day of the strike.
"Dave Farrell, of Hough Green Garage, Widnes, says his offers to recover broken-down vehicles fell on deaf ears, even though traffic jams threatened to clog up the crucial crossing.
The bridge was stationary following the closure of the Mersey tunnels, which meant thousands of commuters using Halton as the only way to get to work.
Mr Farrell says his offer to have two emergency recovery trucks on either end of the bridge was spurned by Halton Borough Council and the police. He said:-
"I offered to pick up and tow away any vehicles that had broken down and take them to Widnes as opposed to Lymm, Chester and Northwich, where they would have been taken to by outside firms."
"I could have had the vehicles off the road and back into Widnes by the time another recovery vehicle had left its depot. I was offering this free of charge as I know what the traffic jams are like if something happens on the bridge.'"
"If a car goes over on the bridge or there is a pile-up or it has broken down, then no emergency vehicles will be able to get past.'"
Although there were no real problems experienced by motorists on Tuesday, Mr Farrell claims traffic issues could easily arise during future strikes."
No prizes for guessing why the authorities might not have wanted to reduce any chaos.
The Echo on Friday night had a report "Tunnel Vision". A Liverpool business pressure group is calling on Merseytravel to keep the Tunnels open during any further strikes.
Out of the Frying pan
Mondays' Echo editorial was about the Tunnels bosses going on strike and said that they would have to struggle to convince commuters that they had "their best interests at heart". This is our reaction which wasn't printed:-
"Merseytravel are a public transport authority, to them the Tunnels are somewhere between a nuisance and a cash cow. The Tunnels are an important strategic road and should be paid for from the one billion pounds in taxes that drivers pay, every week.
The closure of the Tunnels has thrown even more traffic onto the Runcorn bridge, leading to more calls for another crossing to be built. People are forgetting that Merseytravel are part of the consortium behind the proposed crossing. The plan is not only that a new crossing would be tolled, but that they would put a toll on the old bridge, and close half the lanes. It might be a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire.
The Daily Post published various reactions, both backing and criticising Merseytravel bosses going on strike. Though if the bosses are on strike, would you then expect any of their staff to turn up for work?
Wednesday's Daily Post had a follow up letter to the one about the traffic lights in Tithebarn Street. This letter was from David Jones of Allerton:-
"Last week as I sat on a bus on Lime Street for 20 minutes, watching the traffic lights change colour to no avail, it occurred to me that every one of the recent traffic management improvements has led to massive delays, reduced throughput, and at times gridlock.
I cannot think of any scheme where the end result has improved traffic flow.
As a result, I now shop on far fewer occasions in the city centre than ever before.
Perhaps it is time for the architects of this mess to face up to the damage they are doing to city centre trade."
Even the Echo is publishing letters from people complaining about the authorities. On Tuesday there was "Switch for worse" from Colin Rylett who has lived in Maghull for over 40 years. He said of the latest Switch Island changes "It has only got worse. They should have put a flyover from the M57 over the A59 to Preston and cut traffic going round the island. They also need to properly co-ordinate the lights."
Last night we had from Andrew Miller of Mossley Hill "Traffic joke". Yes, you guessed right - it's the Big Dig - "Traffic flow in the city centre, particularly the Strand, has become a big joke. Buses trying to turn right into James street are now totally clogging the road because no bright spark has thought to extend the time the filter is in operation. Simple, but apparently beyond the great minds of those responsible for the Big Dig."
Tuesday 28 March 2006
In another advertisement for Merseyside, most of the news media headlined the Tunnels closure in their coverage of today's national strike. On Reuters, the Tunnels closure even came before the closure of most of London's schools. It was also reported around the world, including CNN.
The impression is that most of the 70,000 or more users of the tunnels have stayed at home, rather than risk a crush on the trains or traffic jams around the Runcorn bridge.|
Our intrepid MTUA reporter went to see the "action" at the Wallasey entrance to the Wallasey Tunnels at 9 AM. There were about 8 picketers, and about 10 cars in the staff car parks. There were not a lot of vehicles!
In this morning's Daily Post there is a big feature on this including:- "Tunnels face threat of five-day April strike". If you click on the links at the bottom of the first page there are about another 6 pages of woe.
Best part from the Daily Post (apart from the mystery of how they transported the paper across the river) is the editorial headed "Treating people with contempt". Here is a bit of it:
".. Merseytravel have failed abjectly to come up with a contingency plan to keep the Mersey tunnels open today. Some might say, no wonder, when the boss is one of those causing the disruption.
We are now told that the tunnels are to be targeted for further strikes, with the possibility of a five-day walk-out before Easter.
It would be nothing short of disgraceful if Merseytravel has not come up with a way of keeeping the tunnels running by then.
Merseytravel has barely hidden its contempt for the tunnel-using motorists of Merseyside, regarding them as a cash cow to subsidise other forms of public transport..."
From tonight's Echo:- "Train feels the strain".
Monday 27 March 2006
Believe it or not, the boss who is telling us that the Tunnels have to close is himself going on strike, according to tonight's Liverpool Echo:- "Tunnels boss joins strike".
The Echo editorial is "The dilemma facing Scales", and ends saying that the Tunnels bosses would have to struggle to convince commuters that they had "their best interests at heart" (see Sunday 2nd for our reaction).
This is the story in this morning's Daily Post:- "Step in now to avert tunnels strike chaos".
Editorial in the Post is "New anguish for tunnels users" says "... It is hard to overestimate the impact of effectively shutting off Wirral from the rest of Merseyside ... This latest inconvenience for those who are forced to use the tunnels to get from A to B is adding insult to injury..."
Saturday 25 March 2006
Late on Friday we heard from a reporter that the Tunnels were to be closed on Tuesday. Perhaps the authorities were hoping that no one would notice!
The story was confirmed today in a story in the Daily Post from Larry Neild (though there is no mention in Saturday's Echo) - "Chaos on the cards as river links face one-day closure".
Merseytravel are closing (except for emergency vehicles) all lanes of the Birkenhead and Wallasey tunnels from 11.30 PM on Monday 27th evening until 12.30 AM on Wednesday 29th morning.
They say that this is for safety reasons as they expect "industrial action" on Tuesday 28th.
Tunnel users would have had a double benefit if the tunnels had been open without tolls for a day. The obvious benefit would have been saving the tolls. But the main benefit would have been a demonstration that stopping tolls would remove much of the delays and congestion.
It is difficult to see why this strike is different from the ones where the Tunnels did remain open.
The Tyne Tunnel, which is also a local authority operated toll tunnel, is also to close. It appears that the toll free tunnels at London, Glasgow, Conway and elsewhere will remain open.
The Ferries will also be closed. Good luck crossing the river!
What the Papers Said this last week
Not much else! Though there were more letters about the authorities increasing road congestion, including this from D Morgan of Thornton in Tuesday's Daily Post:-
"Congratulations on the new traffic lights system on Tithebarn Street.
There are now lights every 50 yards, and they are sequenced so that you will always be caught at every set of lights - It took me 10 minutes to drive the street at 7pm!
They call the Big Dig, the "City Centre Movement Strategy", but it was quicker to drive along Tithebarn Street when it was dug up - Now it's quicker to walk."
The Daily Post published a letter from us on Thursday:-
"Last Friday, Phil Redmond wrote about the Government wanting to put "chips" in all cars. Apart from monitoring us, it would enable them to introduce tolls on all roads. Phil suggested that it would be better to scrap this plan (and the car tax disc).
He is not alone in thinking this. In 2003 the RAC Foundation surveyed drivers, and found that "Motorists would back a radical shake up of the tax system, putting all of the billions they currently pay in tax onto fuel, scrapping the tax disc and abandoning plans for future road user charging."
The Government plans would cost about £10 billion a year to run. That is the same as adding 20 pence a litre to the price of fuel, just to cover the collection cost. Even the Government must think it's daft. But there are powerful interests behind this.
The greens and the public transport lobby will support absolutely anything that adds to the cost of driving. The police and security services will not say anything publicly, but this would enable them never to leave their offices. And of course £10 billion a year would mean a lot of profit to be spread around."
Sunday 19 March 2006
The authorities must believe that we are all daft. We are supposed to believe that the Big Dig is worth the pain because the flow of vehicles will be improved! Judging by results their aim is to stop the flow:-
The scheme has been nominated for an award, apparently because it looks pretty! Daily Post 13th- "£73m city centre revamp in line for urban honour".
Details of more horrors to come, starting in April and mainly round the Strand area:- Liverpool Echo 13th - "Oh no! It's Big Dig 2". We notice that they plan to "Create a new right turn from the Mersey tunnel exit". This must mean the Dock exit. As it can't possibly be meant to benefit users, is their secret plan to close down the main exit? Surely not!
Once upon a time, someone had the idea to try and separate pedestrians and traffic. Now the idea just seems to be to stop the traffic and they are removing the footbridges. What next? - Zebra crossings on the M62? Daily Post 14th - "Liverpool's last footpath in the sky to be demolished".
Take the bus they say. Have they any idea where people are travelling between? Liverpool Echo 14th - "How to beat the Big Dig traffic chaos".
Fridays' Daily Post had a couple of letters on this. One from "LH" says ".. This will mean more disruption to traffic... How can it be safer for pedestrians for them and traffic to be brought into more direct contact?"
D Barber from Waterloo says "... Perhaps it would be better if everyone just moved out of Liverpool. That can be one's only reaction on reading about the latest horrific catalogue of disruptive works, on top of what seems like years of non-stop gridlock. Commuters, shoppers and everyone else who drives into the city and contributes to the economy are clearly an inconvenient nuisance..."
"Chips with everything"
Phil Redmond in Friday's Daily Post wrote about "Chips with everything". This isn't chips you fry, but the electronic ones, that the Government want in every car to keep track of us, and eventually collect road tolls. Phil thinks that those who most want to evade the Government's eye will still do so. He also says that money should not be wasted on this, when if all road tax was on fuel, "people who travel more will pay more".
Friday's Daily Post had a letter from J Delaney of Liverpool 8. It was headed "Underground dream". The writer suggests a "free underground bypass tunnel from Bath Street, King Edward Street to Parliament Street".
"Free" tunnels - that definitely is a dream.
Councillors are hoping that some of the money that they were going to throw at the trams scheme, will be spent on other public transport projects Daily Post 16th - "Plan for £170m tram cash to aid transport shake-up". We wonder why they don't want to spend any of it on the Tunnels? Which reminds us of when, how and if we will learn how the abortive trams spending will be financed.
Saturday 11 March 2006
Papers Round up
In last night's Echo, the Rex Makin column was headed "Big Dig has made the roads worse" Taxi drivers are saying that the roads are worse than before and think that the "planners must have gone bananas". Maybe not - around Britain the object seems to be to reduce road space and cause congestion.This is what they did for some years in Edinburgh, leading up to their abortive attempt to introduce tolls.
Larry Neild in his column in Monday's Daily Post was also about the Big Dig, and possibility of "congestion" charging etc. He concluded "My advice to motorists - put a few bob aside to start your own survival fund to pay for the guerrilla attacks by decison makers hell-bent on prising you from your car.".
Thursday night's Echo published a letter from us in response to the "Tolls good value" letter from Merseytravel:-
"In last Saturday's Echo, Merseytravel said that there was never a commitment for the Tunnels to be free. It was a myth created by Tunnels users.
Echo readers can form their own opinion as to who is creating myths. The first Tunnels Act in 1925, specified that tolls would run for a maximum of 20 years. The goal posts were moved in later Acts, but it was not until the County of Merseyside Act 1980, that the requirement that there would eventually be no tolls was removed. Even under that Act, the tolls would eventually be reduced.
All that changed in 2004, when Merseytravel got a new Act which removed the obligation to reduce tolls, and allowed them to use Tunnels profits on trams etc.
Last Wednesday it was announced that the tolls on the Clyde bridge at Erskine would stop at the end of this month.
This means that it is now possible to drive over 1,350 miles round Britain from Milford Haven in South Wales, going clockwise up the west coast, round to John O'Groats and down to Dundee, before you have to pay a toll. At least it's true if you don't count the Mersey Tunnels."
The 1,350 miles is Milford Haven - 22 miles to Fishguard - 91 miles to Dolgellau - 24 miles to Porthmadog - 47 miles to Llandudno - 16 miles to Rhyl - 43 miles to Birkenhead - 3 miles to Liverpool - 20 miles to Southport - 17 miles to Preston - 22 miles to Lancaster - 85 miles to Workington - 34 miles to Carlisle - 105 miles to Stranraer - 96 miles to Dumbarton - 78 miles to Oban - 45 miles to Fort William - 122 miles to Ullapool - 82 miles to Tongue - 63 miles to John O'Groats - 120 miles to Inverness - 117 miles to Peterhead - 100 miles to Dundee.
Sunday 5 March 2006
Papers Round up
Last night the Echo had a letter "Tolls good value" from the "chair" of Merseytravel -
"There has never been a commitment for the tunnels to be toll free. This is a myth originally created by opponents of tunnel tolls in general and resurrected, I believe, by opponents of the Mersey Tunnels Bill. The millions of pounds of annual running and maintenance costs will always have to be paid by someone. Although the removal of tolls would lead to operating economies of approximately £3m a year, that would still leave an estimated annual cost in the region of £30m to be financed by other means, for example, by adding something like 7% to council tax bills across Merseyside. We continue to operate the Mersey Tunnels on the basis that users should pay directly for the facilities by tolls and, it must be remembered during the past 13 years the tolls have only increased 8.3%, which equates to approximately 0.6% per annum., less than one quarter of the average inflation rate."
Tuesday's Daily Post revealed that the transport gurus who are trying to force people off the roads are thinking about introducing a "Congestion" charge. But it seems that despite their best efforts, such as the "Big Dig", the congestion isn't yet bad enough. But maybe the real idea is to pretend to introduce a charge. The Government doesn't mind if you are sincere, providing you say you will have a charge, then they will give the authorities oodles of money to be spent on things like trains that will only carry a few people:- Daily Post - "Liverpool drivers face congestion charging".
Bill Gleeson in Wednesday's paper said that Liverpool had little congestion - "So let's not call it a congestion charge, because that would warrant a reference to the trading standards department for misdescription. Instead let's call it 'the money grabbing by the usual clutch of bearded weirdies who hate cars' charge. Or here's another suggestion, a 'cracking way of deterring inward investors' charge. Motorists already pay to get into Liverpool from Wirral through tunnel fees."
Oops! The part of the Landing stage used by Merseytravel ferries has sunk. What has this to do with Tunnels? Well the Tunnels have been subsidising the Ferries for most of the last 70 years. Let's hope a new stage isn't too expensive. Anyone still got their Meccano kit and a lot of superglue to stick in the holes?
There were as usual lots of letters crying about the end of the Trams, and "blaming" everyone but Merseytravel. But Friday's Daily Post had this letter from "GT":- "Given all the money that Merseytravel makes from hard-pressed motorists who have no option but to use the Mersey tunnels, one would think it would be possible to have more staffed positions open to get change so it is possible to have the exact fiddly amount of £1.30 (no change given) to throw into the buckets for the privelege of travelling through the tunnels. At both tunnels, there are frequently queues of traffic waiting to get through the booths.
This inevitably leads to the honking of horns, which is exacerbated by the fact that there are no clear lines for traffic to form an orderly queue.
Why can't Merseytravel sort this out and open more staffed positions at busy times of the day?"
Our chairman, Dave Loudon, had a letter in Wednesday's Daily Post:-
"Last week Councillor Paul Clein responded to my question as to whether anyone cared that Merseytravel decisions on tolls had been made in secret.
He says that this is incorrect, at least as far as Liverpool is concerned and wishes "more members of the public actually attended the meetings".
By my reckoning, in the last 12 months there have been 25 meetings of Liverpool's Executive Board, where at some stage it was resolved that "press and public be excluded". So the public had better not get too comfortable in their seats!
Among the items that they would not have been able to hear would have been Merseytravel's plans for financing part of the tram scheme from tunnels tolls.
Councillor Clein presumably did hear, because at the end of November he suggested that £60 million abortive trams costs could be financed from the tolls."
Sunday 26 February 2006
What the Papers said
The Wirral News on Wednesday printed our response to the previous week's letters which had criticised our proposals. Pity about the headline - "Tried but failed"!
The Daily Post on Wednesday had a letter from the Liverpool brach of UKIP, saying that they "cared" about Dave Loudon's complaint about Merseytravel's secrecy on the tolls. It seems that no one else does and on Friday there was a letter from Liverpool Councillor Paul Clein claiming that the claims about secrecy were "incorrect".
Letters on the trams continue, Friday's Daily Post had two:- Merseytravel's "Chief Executive and Director General" says the trams scheme is not dead, and someone else suggests that though there would be no trams, the tram lines should still be laid "along Whitechapel, then Paradise Street and into the new Grosvenor shopping centre". We wonder how many pedestrians and cyclists would agree with this?
Wednesday 22 February 2006
Merseytravel meeting on 9th February
Late yesterday we at last got the minutes for the meeting that discussed our proposals and toll increases. Perhaps our comments about secrecy had some effect, as there is a longer than usual account of what happened, though the report itself is still secret. This is the Full minutes of the tolls items. And this is the main part of what they had to say about our proposals:-
Proposal 1 - No Tunnel Toll Rises
"It was a matter for calculation under the Act and also at the ultimate discretion of the Authority depending upon local economic circumstances."
Proposal 2 - No Tunnel Toll Rises on Sundays and Public Holidays
"It had been rejected as it simply gave money away, in this case approximately £3.75 million."
Proposal 3 - No Tolls for buses.
"It had been rejected as it simply gave money away and it would cost approx £400k. There was no mechanism for that concession to be returned to the bus users."
Proposal 4 - One Way Tolling
"The proposal for one way tolling was very simplistic and was not factually based.
(a) Postcode analysis of customer returns from the last Tunnel Users' survey undertaken by Simpson Carpenter showed that approx 23% of user journeys originate in areas that may be considered marginal inasmuch that the user had the option of using either the Runcorn Bridge or the Mersey Tunnels.
(b) It was not possible to predict with any accuracy what proportion of these users may decide to use the Runcorn Bridge if the Authority were to adopt one way tolling.
(c) There would also be a corresponding switch of traffic from the Runcorn Bridge to Mersey Tunnels in the non-paying direction.
(d) It would not be financially prudent to base the Mersey Tunnels budget on an uncertain prediction that may lead to a loss of toll revenues with the associated implications to both revenue and capital budgets.
(e) The MTUA had not considered what effect on city centre traffic congestion one way tolling may have. Increased demand for tunnel usage in the untolled direction would increase demand on city centre roads which are already heavily congested during peak travel times.
(f) Preliminary meetings had been held with Halton District Council to discuss tolling options for the proposed Halton Bridge. Should the bridge be constructed it was predicted that a toll would be charged for use. It was prudent for the Authority to liaise with the bridge operator to ensure tolls are collected in the most efficient manner. This would infer one way mutually beneficial tolling.
(g) In view of (f) it would be prudent both financially and operationally to wait and see if the bridge was constructed before considering one way tolling at the Mersey Tunnels.
The above had been agreed by the Authority and this proposal would not be considered again unless and until the Second Mersey Crossing had been built."
"Concern was expressed that some of the proposals were very simplistic and not factually based, others had cost implications which could impact on the levy and place District Councils in conflict with the Government over funding."
"During the discussion of the recommendations in report CX/15/06 Councillor J McKelvie gave notice that she would wish to move an amendment to the recommendation, which had been submitted to the Clerk, but required a seconder from the Members. No seconder came forward therefore in accordance with Standing Orders the Amendment was not considered".
Tuesday 21 February 2006
Merseytram dies with a whimper
It was reported today that Merseytravel are not having "one last throw of the dice", and have decided to abandon their legal fight against the Government Daily Post - "Merseytram scheme put on back burner" Liverpool Echo - "End of the line for city's tram fight".
The Echo says they have spent "£55m of taxpayers' money". Really? Does this mean that they aren't using tunnels tolls after all? Or is that a secret?
Sunday 19 February 2006
What the Wirral papers said (or didn't)
What did this last week's Wirral papers say about the tolls? From them you would not know that the previous week, Merseytravel had considered our proposals in secrecy and rejected them. Instead we had:-
The Wirral Globe had the Merseytravel Press release including how they were helping "the vast majority of people using the tunnels".
The Wirral News had two letters on our suggestions that we made to Merseytravel - no toll increases, one way tolls, no tolls on Sundays and public holidays and no tolls for buses.
One letter said that "the pay booths should be on the road to Liverpool so queues are in the open not trapped in the tunnel breathing exhaust fumes". We agree, and this is in fact what we did suggest!
The other letter referred to our "half baked suggestions" and said that instead the distance between the change booth and the toll basket should be increased. We fully agree that this would help and should be done (it was also mentioned on our web site on the 12th November), but we are puzzled why anyone would want both sets of toll booths to remain?
Saturday 18 February 2006
Both yesterday's Liverpool Echo and the Daily Post published a letter from our chariman, Dave Loudon. Here's the version as we sent it to the Echo:-
"We were pleased to see in Monday's paper that your editorial emphasised the importance of the tunnels and the effect that tolls have on dampening the economy.
Ideally we would like to see no tolls, but we realise that can only happen with some Government help. In the meantime last year and this we made proposals that we believed would benefit both tunnel users and the Merseyside economy.
A year ago, our main proposal was for off peak toll reductions. This year our main proposal was for one way tolls (doubled one way, and removed the other). We have also suggested no tolls for buses, and no tolls on Sundays or public holidays.
These proposals were costed so that they would not require any subsidy from the council tax payer.
Last week Merseytravel discussed and rejected our latest proposals. This was done with the press and public, including me, required to leave the meeting.
If Parliament were to exclude the press and public when they met, there would be uproar. Can someone explain why on Merseyside, councillors can meet in secret to decide on a matter of public interest, but no one seems to care?"
Tuesday 14 February 2006
No (almost) Toll Increases
This morning's Daily Post and last night's Liverpool Echo report Merseytravel's decision not to increase most of the tunnel tolls. Here is the Echo editorial in full:-
"Merseytravel, the regional transport authority, appears to be celebating its decision to freeze tunnel tolls for all but the largest commercial vehicles for the next twelve months.
The tone of the message to already hard pressed and beleaguered motorists is: haven't we done well?
The truth is somewhat different, and for those with long memories, disappointing.
When the first Mersey road tunnel opened in 1934, the grand plan was to pay off building costs and then have no tolls at all.
The same idealism found new, if short-lived, impetus when the second tunnel opened in 1971.
However, all that has happened since is that the cost of driving between Liverpool and Wirral has become ever more prohibitive.
The numbers affected - 26 million car journeys a year, or 80,000 people a day - are hugely significant. Is it any wonder that motorists, and particularly shoppers, are opting to use thriving commercial outlets at Cheshire Oaks or Trafford, where there are no tolls and parking is free?
Contrast that with the need for Liverpool to encourage thousands more shoppers and commuters to feed businesses in the Grosvenor Paradise Street development, the Met Quarter between Victoria Street and Whitechapel, and the hoped - for Central Village scheme behind Central Station.
And yet Merseytravel congratulates itself on being kind to drivers and easier on local authority tunnel support grants. That is not good enough.
This is a time without precedent in Liverpool's commercial expansion. A time when barriers to access to the city should be removed and the only viable long-term strategies are those which encourage the maximum unimpeded traffic flow - both ways."
Monday 13 February 2006
No Toll Increase?
Merseytravel Councillors met last Thursday. Our chairman, Dave Loudon, and another member attended the meeting. There were two secret reports on the Tunnels, but the public had to leave while they were discussed.
Merseytravel have told us that our "Another Way Forward" proposals (no toll increases, one way tolls, no tolls on Sundays and public holidays, and no tolls for buses) were discussed. But we don't know what was said. We have asked Merseytravel what the councillors resolved but they will not yet tell us.
We have learnt from various sources that they decided there will be no general toll increase. They also reversed part of last year's toll reduction for lorries. The toll for lorries with 4 or more axles will increase from £3.90 to £5.20.
We do not yet know what the other report dealt with.
PS We have since been told that the other report was a verbal one on our "Another Way Forward" proposals, and that there was nothing resolved. We are curious as to why the report was made and any debate was held while press and public were excluded. This means that we have no chance to counter any arguments against our proposals.
PPS Merseytravel this afternoon issued a press release confirming that tolls would stay the same apart from the lorries with 4 or more axles, which they say "cause most damage to the road surface". All the more odd, that they reduced those tolls a year ago.
Trams and Tolls
Further to the reports that up to £56 million of the abortive trams scheme may be finaced from tolls, there was a report by Geoff Barnes in the Wirral Globe:- "Tunnel cash to pay for city's doomed trams". The report includes the Leader of Wirral Council saying "The three authorities of St Helens, Sefton and Knowsley all have diminished use of the tunnels and it must be taken into account that they regularly subsidise a facility mainly used by the people of Wirral."
There is no subsidy to the Tunnels, quite the opposite. We wonder where the Leader of Wirral Council gets his ideas from. He should be aware of the facts, and use his office to stop tolls from being used to subsidise schemes all over Merseyside. Statements like the one in last week's paper, seen by hundreds of thousands of people, make us wonder what is said at meetings such as Thursday's where the press and public were excluded when tunnel tolls were discussed.
Another Way Forward
There has been a dissapointing response to our proposals (no toll increases, one way tolls, no tolls on Sundays or public holidays, and no tolls for buses). The nearest we got to any support from politicians is from Stepohen Hesford, Labour MP for Wirral West, and Les Rowlands one of the Wirral Tory councillors.
The other 99% of councillors and MPs have ignored the proposals. One councillor however was frank enough to tell us that he doesn't support us. This is what Steve Foulkes, the Leader of Wirral Council said:-
"Thank you for your email but our position remains the same that is that the burden of reduced Tunnel income should not fall on the council taxpayers of Wirral. Secondly without considering any reduction in the cost of other crossing methods i.e. train, bus or ferry it is unlikely to gather much support.
However I am sure all options will be considered as part of the Merseytravel Budget making process and I am sure your proposals have been presented to those best placed to make those decisions. The no toll Sunday would see the Wirral shopping on that day decimated a view that Wirral Chamber of Commerce has, in the past, shared.
I am sure other groups will, as usual, simply support your line without detailing the cost and impact on the levy but I believe in giving you realistic and honest answers."
This was our reponse to him:-
1. The Tunnels currently make a surplus of £6 million a year, this is after a large amount of capital expenditure has been financed from revenue. Our proposals cost no more than this £6 million. The statement on behalf of the Labour group implies that Tunnels users are subsidising council tax payers and that you want this to continue.
2. The concern for bus users is odd, as one of the proposals we have made this time and last time is that buses should not pay any tolls. Why then have Labour rejected this both times? There is a significant difference between cars and most public transport. Cars (and lorries) are very heavily taxed, with only about £1 out of £7 going back into the roads. A toll on any road is an additional unfair burden.
Public transport is subject to very low taxes, and significant parts (particularly the trains and ferries) are highly subsidised. If the anti road lobby ever succeeded in forcing people off the roads then Gordon Brown would lose nearly £50 billion a year in taxes.
3. We are glad to hear from the Wirral Labour group that Merseytravel will be considering all options, but if Wirral councillors do not support them, we stand little chance. Can we assume that the two Wirral Labour reps on the MPTA will vote against our proposals (assuming that they are considered) and will instead vote for more toll increases?
4. We are disappointed that the Labour group apparently want in effect to keep Wirral people on the peninsula as if it was a penal colony. This is said to be because of the effect on Wirral shops, a view which it is said was shared, "in the past" by Wirral Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber made a submission to the Lords cttee that was considering the Bill that became the Mersey Tunnels Act 2004. The chamber's submission included:- "The chamber's view is that tolls are detrimental to the wider Merseyside economy, and that of the Wirral in particular." (The whole of the submission, where they also refer to the queues at toll barriers is here.)
When the MTUA was actively recruiting 2 years ago, we got almost unanimous support from traders in Birkenhead market. The only ones that didn't support us said that it was because the authorities would never be persuaded to lift any part of the tolls burden.
In our view it is somewhat of a slur on Wirral businesses to imply that they can only compete behind a toll barrier. Any amelioration in tolls would help to encourage more businesses to set up within this area. It would also help to encourage tourism. Our main proposal (which would cost little) was that there would be no tolls for people travelling from Liverpool to Wirral (with tolls doubled for journeys from Wirral to Liverpool). This would considerably reduce queues at the toll booths when entering Wirral, which even in the off-peak period are quite common. Perhaps you could tell us why this is such a bad idea? Do those in the Labour Group not only want to keep Wirral people on the peninsula, but also want to discourage visitors?
Friday 10 February 2006
The issue of trams, Liverpool City Council's anti car policy, and the Big Dig are frequently in the Daily Post. Occasionally even tolls gets mentioned! Here are some items from the past week:-
On Monday, yet another letter blames everyone except Merseytravel for spending over £50 million on the tram scheme. The main culprit this time though is "2008, Capital of Culture Year"!
Also on Monday, Andy who doesn't say where he lives but says he is a regular Tunnel user, "totally disagrees" with our proposals, in particular he reckons that people would avoid the one way tolls by using the Runcorn bridge.
On Tuesday, Ian Carter from Walton, suggests that transport on Merseyside is not ""in safe hands" and that what is wanted is "sensible, affordable, and deliveranble" solutions.
Also on Tuesday, the Daily Post's "Man in Westminster" attacks all the spending on roads, and the lack of spending on public transport. These illusions are very similar to those held by the Lib Dems and their aptly named Transport spokesman - Brake.
On Wednesday most of the letters page was taken up by more letters supporting Merseytravel and the trams. But one letter suggested that they "get the message that this scheme is now dead in the water and has no chance of becoming a reality". Ian Miller writes asking Merseytravel at their meeting on Thursday to support our proposal for no tolls for buses. Most interesting letter though was from Mrs Bird in Birkenhead, she seems to want a congestion charge "in our great city". It isn't said whether this is as well as Tunnel tolls.
On Thursday more letters on .... trams. But there was also a letter from our Secetary, John McGoldrick, in response to letter from Andy on Monday, opposing our suggestion of one way tolls on the Mersey Tunnels.:-
"..... He said people would use it free one way and then return via the Runcorn bridge.
According to the AA that would be a diversion of up to 42 miles on to a crossing that is already having to cope with twice as much traffic per lane as the Tunnels. Not enough people would go to so much trouble to knock a hole in Merseytravel's tunnels profit. And perhaps Andy is forgetting that the authorities plan that if a new bridge is built on the far side of the existing bridge, then they will close half the existing bridge and toll it.
Andy is a lucky man if he has never experienced the frustration of queuing when the road is clear the other side of the toll barrier. Our proposal would eliminate these queues now for traffic entering the Wirral from Liverpool."
On Friday - NO trams letters. But P Murray from Wallasey writes: "So , to add insult to injury, motorists using the Tunnels are expected to bail out much of the costs of Merseytravel for its failed trams scheme.
Is there nothing that can be done to stop this? It is an apalling way to treat the thousands of people who have no option but to use these tunnels."
6 February 2006
Trams and Tolls
Further to Friday's Daily Post report that £56 million has been spent on the trams scheme, there is a further report in Saturday night's Echo that says that another £12 million has been committed on top of the £56 million.
PS There were some brave words from the Editor in Friday's Daily Post- "Most of the money that has been squandered on the scheme has not even been paid out yet and can never be recovered, with the result that the region's Mersey tunnel users can look forward to years of forking out their toll fees to pay off a massive useless debt." The Editor says that various aspects of the trams scheme should be examined by an "in-depth independent inquiry". We agree, but we are not holding our breath!
Another Toll Rise?
The Merseytravel Councillors meet at 2.30 this Thursday (the 9th) to settle next year's budget. We don't know what will happen, but last year's meeting decided to increase the tolls. The budget papers show that after last April's tolls rise they now expect that for the year to this March, there will have been 800,000 less vehicles using the tunnels than they budgetted for.
4 February 2006
Trams and Tolls still to be plundered?
Friday's Daily Post had more on the tram scheme. Though nothing has been built, it seems that Merseytravel have managed to spend £56 million on the scheme. But this is apparently all right because "This was all budgeted for and comes from our reserves and from the tunnels.": "Transport blueprint set back five years". This seems to confirm what the acting Leader of Liverpool City Council suggested on 29th November on Radio Merseyside - that the abortive tram costs might be paid for out of tunnels tolls.
We don't know what amazes us the most - how much money has been spent - or the use of tunnels tolls - or the way local politicians and the news media have backed Merseytravel almost 100%.
News Media Coverage of "Another Way Forward"
In yesterday's item, we overlooked the report in the Liverpool Echo, as probably did most of it's readers as it was about one column inch. Does this reflect the importance that the Echo attaches to the Tunnels?
3 February 2006
News Media Coverage of "Another Way Forward"
There were radio interviews of one of our spokesmen on three of the local radio stations on Wednesday; and the same day it was on the BBC "Call to reform Mersey Tunnel toll". On Thursday it was covered in the Daily Post by Liam Murphy:- "Tunnel users outline the road ahead on Mersey tolls". There were also reports in this week's Wirral Globe and Wirral News. Let's hope that the politicians are listening!
On Wednesday the High Court rejected Merseytravel's case against the Government for not helping to fund Line One of the tram. The scheme was also to be funded from other sources including tunnels tolls. According to the Daily Post, Merseytravel have already spent £55 million on the scheme:- "Judge kills off trams scheme" "Last stand for Merseytram".
1 February 2006
"Another Way Forward"
A year ago we made proposals, "A New Way Forward", to Merseytravel for tolls changes that would benefit users. All the proposals were rejected and the tolls increased. We have now made a new set of proposals, and issued this Press Release:-
Long-suffering motorists are demanding action aimed at ending the daily rush-hour queue at Mersey Tunnel toll booths.
The Mersey Tunnel Users Association (MTUA) is proposing a radical overhaul of tunnel operations that would include tolls being collected in only one direction.
An MTUA dossier submitted to Merseytravel points to the fact that other major crossings in the UK operate one-way toll collection and argues that the move would ease congestion and reduce costs.
Established three years ago the Mersey Tunnel Users Association boasts more than 5,000 members and campaigns for a better deal for private and commercial users of the twin Mersey Tunnels.
MTUA Chairman Dave Loudon said: "Under our proposals the toll booths that greet drivers travelling from Liverpool to Wirral would be removed and charges in the other direction would be doubled.
"This is a change that is long-overdue since it would mean drivers of cars, lorries and buses would have a smoother journey in both directions.
"Some of the redundant booths and lanes, could be used to increase the number of manned and automatic booths collecting tolls from a single direction. This extra capacity would also alleviate the queues at toll barriers for traffic going towards Liverpool."
The MTUA dossier presented to Merseytravel extends proposals first developed last year. They include:-
No increases in tolls.
Tunnels to be toll-free on Sundays and at Christmas and other public holidays.
Buses to be toll-free at all times.
Merseytravel currently takes around £6 million from the Tolls income of around £36 million. In the Trams financing plans that have not been released to the public, it appears that some of this money was somehow to be mortgaged to help pay for the trams scheme.
The tunnel users view is that all tolls should only be used on the tunnels. Their proposal would cost about £6 million a year, which would still leave a surplus of £9 million to either finance capital works or to pay external debt off early.
The blueprint "Mersey Tunnels - Another Way Forward" has been sent to MPs and councillors in a bid to win their support for the proposals.
MTUA Chairman Dave Loudon added: "The Tunnels are the only road in the North West and North Wales area where users have to pay a toll on top of the burden of fuel duty and all the other taxes on roads use.
"To add insult to injury, users often have to queue at the toll barriers, though the tunnel is clear and traffic is running freely.
"We are proposing that this aggravation be reduced, and we are also saying that it is most unfair that Tunnels users are regarded by the politicians as a cash cow.
"All of our proposals - no tolls increases, one way tolls, no Sunday tolls, no tolls for buses - would all help the local economy.
We hope that they will be backed by all the people in Liverpool and the Wirral and adopted by Merseytravel."
24 January 2006
Death of Lord Chan
Lord Chan of Oxton has died :- Daily Post - "Tributes pour in for Lord Chan". Lord Chan lived in Birkenhead and was the first person of Chinese origin to sit in the House of Lords. He was to be on the Lord's committee that considered the Mersey Tunnels Bill, but there was an objection. When the Bill came back for the Third Reading, he helped to lead the unsuccessful attempt to defeat it.
11 January 2006
Daily Post & Echo
Yesterday's Daily Post had a couple of items on old stories:-
Merseytravel has written to local politicians and business organisations saying that its legal advisers say they have a strong case against the Government over the tram scheme:- "Merseytravel convinced: We can win trams battle"
There is yet another announcement that the so called "Mersey Gateway" (another crossing at Runcorn) is near to starting. this time because it has been backed by something called the North West Regional Assembly:- "Mersey Gateway takes leap nearer". There is no mention of the plan to put a toll on the existing bridge as well as the new one.
Yesterday's Liverpool Echo had a letter from Paul Faulkner in Liverpool:- "How fitting that the congestion and delays caused by the Big Dig should have a memorial - permanent congestion and delays. The needless loading bay on Lime Street and equally unnecessary expanse of pavement outside the Adelphi conspire to make fast the bottleneck beleagured commuters had hoped would be a bad memory upon completion of the works. Add the lunacy of a second set of lights to control the minimal traffic into and out of Copperas Hill and a once free-flowing junction now regularly finds itself ar a standstill. Well done to all concerned - they must be very proud."
4 January 2006
£1 million "disastrous" - £35 million ignore
The Daily Post and Echo using the Freedom of Information Act have learnt that in 2005 Liverpool collected £1 million for parking fines and £5 million in parking fees:- "Over £1m paid in parking fines". The Editor of last night's Echo said of the £1 million in parking fines:- "Treating car owners as liabilities rather than assets is disastrous.". We wonder what the Editor's views are on the £35 million that Merseytravel gets each year from Tunnels users?
A/cs from 1934