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News Report Page 28 of 35
Publication Date:- 2018-27-01
News reports located on this page = 1.

Proposals for changes to Mersey Tunnel tolls to go to Transport Committee

THE introduction of a new, cheaper off peak ₤1 toll for Fast Tag users of the Mersey Tunnels is 1 of the proposals to be considered, on Thursday 1 February 2018, when the Merseytravel Transport Committee meets to discuss tunnel toll setting for 2018/19.

Following this, the recommendations of the Transport Committee will then be considered by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA), who is responsible for setting the tunnel tolls, at its budget meeting on Friday, 2 February 2018.

If agreed there will be a new payment level introduced - the "Fast Tag Off Peak" charge, which will see a ₤1 toll for car users making journeys between 19:00 and 07:00 each day, and any time on Sundays. This aligns to Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram's mayoral pledge regarding a more affordable Fast Tag for Mersey Tunnel users. The standard Fast Tag toll for cars will not increase at all, resulting in greater savings for Fast Tag users compared to the cash toll.

The proposals also include a 10p rise in the car cash toll taking it to ₤1.80 from April, which is 20p less than what the rise is authorised to be under the Tunnels Act.

Under the Tunnels Act 2004, the tolls should rise in line with inflation, and would take a car cash toll to ₤2 for 2018/19. However, Transport Committee members can use their discretion when setting tolls by taking economic and social factors into account; something that the Authority has consistently done in looking to keep toll levels as low as possible year on year.

Currently, an average of 55% of journeys through the tunnel are by Fast Tag users; meaning the majority of travellers are benefiting from a greater saving on the cash toll.

Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram said:- "I fully understand that no one likes paying tolls, so I have put forward proposals designed to reduce costs for regular and local users of the Mersey Tunnels. By freezing the fast tag and introducing the ₤1 off peak, we are striving to make cross river travel as affordable and convenient as possible. Encouraging more people to travel off peak will also help to reduce congestion and improve air quality by reducing the number of queuing vehicles."

The Metro Mayor has also asked Merseytravel chiefs to look at ways to increase uptake of the fast tag by streamlining the application process and proactive marketing for the more efficient and cost effective option. Steve Rotheram added:- "A review and refresh of tunnel operations is under way, which amongst other things, will look at the introduction of contactless payment and new technology. As part of that process I would want to look at ways in which we can make it as easy as possible for people to use the cheapest payment option."

Other recommendations made in the tunnel tolls report to be considered at the meeting include continuing to provide free travel through the tunnels for emergency services liveried vehicles and free travel for all users between 22:00, on 24 December and 06:00 on 26 December 2018, in recognition that public transport services are not available during these times.

There has been significant investment in the Mersey Tunnels even beyond the standard maintenance over the last few years, including the Kingsway Tunnel rewiring project and the refresh of the Toll System.

Frank Rogers, Chief Executive of Merseytravel, said:- "As always, it is for political members to take a decision on the tunnel toll levels. However, reflecting on the past year, it is encouraging to see more than ˝ of the people using the tunnel taking advantage of the benefits that a Fast Tag can bring. If the proposed changes are approved, it will give those people even further increased savings when travelling, especially during off-peak times."

Fast Tags are available to everyone, not just regular travellers, and are issued free of charge and tunnel users are encouraged to use the Fast Tag as their preferred method of payment.

As well as the savings drivers can make, there are also dedicated Fast Tag lanes at each tunnel plaza. Fast Tag offers 'stored value' meaning that customers' money stays in their Fast Tag account until it is used, no matter how long that is.

If approved by the LCRCA the new tolls would come into effect from Sunday, 1 April 2018. The Fast Tag new discount for off peak travellers would then apply between 7pm and 7am, Monday to Saturday and all day Sunday.

Should the plan for ₤1 off peak fast tag for Mersey Tunnels get approved, it would also fulfil 1 of the Metro Mayor's key election pledges.

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