Agenda item

Mersey Tunnels Tolls 2020/21

 To consider a report of Merseytravel concerning the Mersey Tunnel Tolls 2020/21.

Minutes:

Gary Evans, Assistant Director for Customer Delivery presented a report on the Mersey Tunnel Tolls for 2020/21. The report outlined the legal procedure for annually revising the tunnel toll, summarised how the current toll has been agreed and made proposals for the level of tolls payable for April 2020 for the next financial year.

 

The Committee heard that the proposal was for toll levels to remain the same for 2020/21 and the Liverpool City Region (LCR) members discount for tolls would continue. The LCR members discount set the tunnel toll at £1 for eligible users and it was reported that more than half of the journeys through the tunnel were entitled to that discount.

 

Councillor Foulkes commended Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram on consolidating the pledge he made to introduce the £1 tunnel toll. Furthermore, it was suggested that the discounted toll had been well received by residents across the LCR who were now able to travel through the tunnel at a lower cost. It was acknowledged that the tunnel was unlikely to ever be free unless it was funded through tax centrally with intervention from Central Government. The ongoing maintenance costs were necessary to ensure the tunnels were in good condition and useable and the economic impact of losing the tunnels was discussed. It was hoped that moving forward, more members of the public could be encouraged to use public transport and more imaginative ways of tolling less polluting vehicles could be explored. Councillor Foulkes commended officers on the readability of the report and its scope for flexibility whilst outlining key benefits like emergency vehicle use of the tunnels and free travel on Christmas Day.

 

Councillor Cleary asked for further detail on the figures presented in section 3.14 of the report which presented a historical comparison between tolls, rail and bus charges. He suggested that the discounted toll now showed a 23% reduction in charges compared to rail which had seen a 17% increase and suggested that the discount of the tunnel must have led to an increase in the number of private vehicles using the tunnels. He queried what work had been undertaken to determine whether the reduction in tolls had led to an increase in vehicles.

 

Gary Evans explained that although no independent assessments had been carried out, through Officer’s experience it was felt that the setting of toll levels in multiples of 10pence resulted in a negligible impact on traffic usage. Wider economic issues as opposed to local decision making seemed to have a more significant effect on personal car use such as motoring costs, insurance, car parking. In terms of monitoring the levels of emission produced by vehicles moving through the tunnels, the organisation did capture and assess this information as it was used to adjust the ventilators in the tunnels. The information collected suggested that emissions were reducing year on year through the tunnels because of motorists using more modern vehicles and greener technology.

 

Councillor Cleary suggested that lowering the tunnel toll would obviously generate more traffic, which led to more road casualties and more Co2 emissions, which led to poorer air quality, and for those reasons he was unable to support the recommendations in the report.

 

Councillor Foulkes responded to suggest that any votes against the recommendations should be substantiated with an alternative suggestion on tunnel tolls that stated a revised tunnel toll and figure for the number of cars that would be acceptable to travel through the tunnel.

 

Councillor Howard stated he thought it was an excellent report that was clear and informative. He also stated he was pleased there was not an annual charge for fast tag users like those that they had on other toll roads like the M6. He mirrored Councillor Foulkes comment on the tunnel being tolled until there was an intervention from central government.

 

 In relation to the recommendations, Councillor Howard moved a motion to add the following wording to the recommendation d:

 

‘- chair and vice chair of the LCRCA Transport Committee’

 

The motion was seconded by Councillor Foulkes and resolved accordingly. 

 

The Committee voted on whether or not to support the recommendations outlined in the report with 18 voting for and 1 voting against.

 

Councillor Williams suggested that there would be work done moving forward to address climate change and that raising the cost of the tunnel tolls would have a negative effect on low paid people trying to get to work.

 

Councillor Robinson supported the recommendations in the report and stated that the fast tag discount for local residents was the realisation of an electoral promise that benefited many people in the city region. The allowance of emergency vehicles through the tunnel and free travel on Christmas day were also commended and he suggested that given the challenges in the local economy, freezing the tunnel tolls was the right thing to do. Furthermore, he proposed that the real problem with the tunnel tolls was the fare charged to go through the tunnel on public transport and that this needed to be addressed as he felt that it was currently unjustifiable.

 

RESOLVED that: -

 

(i)                    the contents of the report be noted;

 

(ii)                  the level of ‘authorised tolls’ for the Mersey Tunnels as determined by the County of Merseyside Act 1980 (as amended by the Mersey Tunnels Act 2004) with details on calculation methods explained in section 3 of this report;

 

(iii)                 the Transport Committee recommend that the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) implement a schedule of tolls contained in Table 1 below with effect from Wednesday 1 April 2020 :-

 

Vehicle Class

Authorised Toll 2020/21 (November RPI)

2020/21 Cash Toll

2020/21 Fast Tag Toll – LCR Resident*

2020/21 Fast Tag Toll – Non LCR Resident

1

£2.10

£1.80

£1.00

£1.80

2

£4.20

£3.60

£2.40

£2.40

3

£6.30

£5.40

£3.60

£3.60

4

£8.40

£7.20

£4.80

£4.80

*Liverpool City Region (LCR) resident defined as living within the electoral boundaries of Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral; and

 

(iv)                 the LCRCA allocate up to £500k as per paragraph 3.20 and to instruct officers to explore the opportunities of implementing toll discounts as a trial with the specific aim to encourage cross river public transport use, with the final approval of any specific trial discount be delegated to the Director General, Merseytravel in consultation with the LCRCA Treasurer, Monitoring Officer and the Chair and Vice Chair of the Transport Committee be recommended.

 

 

Supporting documents: