(this page revised 2012)
A/cs from 1934
Older news:- 2007 News 2006 News 2005 News 2004 News 2003 News National Alliance Against Tolls
Since February 2007, we have not been able to update news except for a few items -
2012 and no toll increase.
The 2011 TOLL INCREASE.
The protest against the 2011 increase.
2010 TOLLS INCREASE - "2010 TOLL increase postponed, but sting in the tail" on separate page.
"SAFETY" RAILINGS - In October, it was reported that Merseytravel with the collaboration of Wirral Council have erected a fence on top of the existing railings at the Wheatland Lane bridge in Wallasey. This is the bridge that we have used in recent years for demonstrations. The authorities claim that the new fence is to prevent suicides, though it seems that other Merseyside bridges have not had anything similar done.
TUNNELS SPONSOR GOING - Also in October it was reported that Claire Curtis Thamas, the MP who sponsored the infamous Mersey Tunnels Bill, was standing down. She had had very high expenses claims - Liverpool Echo 8th October - "Crosby MP Claire Curtis-Thomas will step down at next year’s general election".
SCAM - In September 2009, Merseytravel were reported to be complaining about a "scam" by drivers - Liverpool Echo - "Mersey tunnels hit by £86,000 fake coin scam" Liverpool Click - "Fraudsters' fake coins cost Mersey Tunnels £86,000" BBC - "Tunnels hit by fake £1 coin fraud" Wirral Globe - "Investigation launched after fake coins are used at tunnel toll booths".
No tunnel users will be crying over this, though the real mystery is why there are so few dud coins. According to the Royal Mint, 2.5% of one pound coins are duds, so with the Tunnels raking in 36 million pounds a year from us why is this so called "scam" not costing the authorities nearer to a million pounds a year?
And as the authorities have so far collected 700 million pounds from drivers, is not the real scam that we still have to pay any tolls at all?
THE OTHER SIDE - On 23 July, the Liverpool Echo had a letter from the Merseytravel "chair" - "We must have tolls" (second letter down). (There was something similar in the Daily Post editor's section on the same day.) We sent a reply to the Echo, they chose not to print it, but here it is -
The chair of Merseytravel in a letter ("We must have tolls") published on the 21st July challenges me for evidence that "the Mersey Tunnels tolls were to be abolished once the construction costs had been paid off". I suggest that he digs out a copy of the first Mersey Tunnels Act of 1925, he will see at section 65 that tolls could only be collected "until the expiration of a period not exceeding twenty years from the opening of the tunnel". The tolls were to be removed earlier if a certain amount of tolls (one million two hundred and fifty thousand pounds) had been collected.
Since 1925 there have been numerous Acts which have moved the goal posts until with their Act of 2004, Merseytravel in effect took the goalposts away and were allowed to make a profit from the Tunnels.
The chair ends his letter by saying that the Tunnels should be "paid for by those who use them". The situation at the
moment is that Tunnels users already pay fuel duty and other taxes. On top of those taxes, since the first tunnel opened at the end of 1933, drivers have paid over £700 million in Tunnels tolls. We believe it is well past the time that the Government took over the Tunnels and removed the tolls. This would benefit the economy, but we get the
impression that Merseytravel would prefer to "brick up" the Mersey Tunnels if they could only find some way of still
getting money from drivers.
Mersey Tunnels Users Association
TUNNELS BEANO - On Sunday July 19th, Merseytravel had a tunnel walk to "celebrate the 75th anniversary of the opening" of the Birkenhead Tunnel. In fact the Tunnels opened to traffic in December 1933, but the authorities seem to be obsessed with Royalty (e.g. the official tunnel names of "Queensway" and "Kingsway" and the life size statues of King George V and Queen Mary - all presumably paid for by tunnels users).
We don't know how much the 2009 walk and the donation to charity cost, but as usual we assume that tunnel users not only had the inconvenience of a closed tunnel, they also had to pay for this Merseytravel publicity event.
By coincidence just before the walk we had obtained (using the Freedom of Information Act) from Merseytravel details of the 2008 walk. To the extent that the news media reported what we had found, they partly confused it with the 2009 walk. One of the more accurate reports about the 2008 walk was on the Click Liverpool website - "Tunnel walk cost toll payers more than £100,000".
The 2008 walk had cost over £160 thousand, but the income from ticket sales was only just under £45 thousand, with the loss being charged to the Tunnels. Of the £45 thousand that walkers had paid, only £495 went to charities i.e. about a penny for each pound of entry fees. Merseytravel then added to the £495 by £5,385 "funded via the Toll Overpayments".
It was suggested on Radio Merseyside that the 2008 Tunnels walk was not supposed to be for charity, but at the time of the 2008 walk it had been said that "The charity beneficiary for this event is Radio Merseyside Charitable Trust". A lot of the promotional stuff on the web about the 2008 event is no longer there. But the report in the Liverpool Echo on 16th Jun 2008 is, and it included - "Some walkers were raising money for charity, while proceeds from registration for the event also went to good causes." "Thousands enjoy tunnel walk".
RUNCORN BRIDGE - On 19 May a major Public Inquiry opened into the plans to build a new toll bridge at Runcorn and to also toll the existing bridge. The plan is backed by all the authorities including Merseytravel. We have been trying to make people aware of what is happening, but as usual most people including many businesses have been misinformed. One of the most startling facts is that despite building a new six lane bridge, there will be less traffic crossing two bridges at Runcorn than there is now with one bridge. You can see why this is at - NAAT - "Mersey Gateway - Dominoes Or The Bridge Game From Alice's Adventures In Wonderland".
The main part of the Public Inquiry ended on 25 June, but it was not formally closed till 28 July. It is expected that the Inspector will support the Council, and that the Government will then approve this rip-off early in 2010.
LESS POLICE? - On 12 April, the Liverpool Echo reported that the Tunnels Police were to be reduced from 82 to 52. Whatever the number, the Tunnels will remain the only highway in Britain which has a separate police force paid for from tolls.
2009 Toll Increase (separate page)
|| - 17th December was the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Birkenhead tunnel to traffic, and the 75th anniversary of paying
tolls. As Merseytravel had decided to ignore this, and most of the news media seem to be mesmerised by Merseytravel, the anniversary passed with almost 100% of the people on Merseyside believing that the Tunnels did not open till July 1934.|
TOLLS DISCOUNT - The people in the area of the Government owned toll crossing at Dartford had their tolls reduced to 20 pence in November.
In March, Wirral Council had said that they would press for a similar scheme on Merseyside and they were to contact both Merseytravel and the four Wirral MPs. At the time this was hailed in the local press with headlines like "COUNCILS UNITE TO SCRAP TOLLS", and "ALL PARTY BACKING FOR THE ABOLITION OF TUNNEL TOLLS". Given our past experience with the Council we thought that the press reports were optimistic but had our fingers crossed that they might do something.
In the event nothing seemed to be happening despite a meeting that we had with Council Leaders in July. So in December, Brian from the MTUA committee asked about this during the period at the start of Wirral Council meetings where members of the public are allowed to submit questions.
The answer given by the Council effectively meant that the issue had been kicked into touch. The Council said that they had been told that a discount could not be given without an effect on Council Tax. The Council said this despite the fact that it has always been the position of the MTUA and others that the Tunnels should be part of the national road network and financed from existing road taxes, and despite the fact that at Dartford it is effectively the Government who bear the cost of the discount as they own the crossing. The Council reply also said that they had written to the four Wirral MPs, but that the MPs had not replied.
There was some coverage of this at the end of December - Liverpool Echo - "‘No’ to tunnel toll cut". Wirral Council said that they did not want a "financial burden on the taxpayer". It seems that the Council are keener to protect the taxpayer than they are to get a fair deal for tunnels users or to help the local economy.
2008 Toll Proposals from MTUA
2008 Toll Increase including protest
SUMMER 2008 TUNNEL WALK PROTEST
||On Sunday 15th June 2008 there was a "sponsored" walk through the Birkenhead Tunnel which was closed to traffic. We held a protest in William Brown Street outside the Liverpool entrance. We started collecting signatures for a new petition, and some of our more intrepid members walked through. The protest was covered in the Politics Show and on the local tv news on BBC and Granada, and on local radio including the Pete Price show on Radio City.|
Older news:- 2007 News 2006 News 2005 News 2004 News 2003 News
A/cs from 1934