The Council and the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board (MGCB) are seeking views as part of a three-week consultation starting today (8 March 2018) on the proposed changes to the tolling scheme, which could see even more users receive unlimited travel across the Mersey Gateway Bridge.

The new bridge has been open almost 6 months taking over 8 million vehicles which are benefiting from quicker, easier and more reliable journeys. Traffic flows are positive and are surpassing the projected usage envisioned during the project’s development stages.

The Council can’t remove the tolls or reduce them, as they are needed to pay for the new infrastructure.

BUT, since the bridge opened, the Council and the MGCB have been listening to comments and observations from users and representations from local MPs and are now proposing a series of changes to further improve the offering for users and provide clarity on a number of other issues.

Once finalised, the changes will form part of an updated Road User Charging Scheme Order (RUCSO).

The proposed changes outlined in the consultation papers are:

Halton Local User Discount Support Scheme (to replace the Halton Local User Discount Scheme Economic Hardship Scheme)

  • To change to the Halton Local User Discount Scheme (LUDS) Economic Hardship Scheme to enable more residents to be able to apply for the LUDS.
  • The change will allow those residents living in Council Tax Band G&H properties in apprenticeships* or in full time education** who were previously ineligible to apply for the LUDS, to apply under the new Halton Local User Discount Support Scheme.

Local residents with disabilities

  • To allow Halton residents who have a disability*** who are not eligible for a Blue Badge and whose disability prevents them from driving, to register a vehicle which will benefit from toll exemption when they are travelling in the vehicle.

Exemptions

  • To allow further vehicles registered by the emergency services when being used for the purpose of delivering these services, whether or not marked and not already covered by exemptions;
  • further ambulance vehicles whether carrying patients or not and registered by the ambulance service and
  • agricultural tractors to be able to be added onto the exemptions register.

Classification of Motor Homes

  • To designate Motor Homes as vehicles in Class 2, the same classification as applies to private cars

In addition, to clarify any uncertainty that may exist, actual toll charges will be specified in the RUCSO and also published in the press and on the Merseyflow and other appropriate websites.

It is not proposed to increase the actual tolls charged nor make changes to the LUDS criteria to allow all residents who live in Council Tax Band G&H properties to apply.

The Council will however, invite Government to fund the journeys over the Bridges of eligible Halton residents who live in Council Tax Band G and H properties and who are currently excluded from the LUDS.

The consultation will run from today 8th March 2018 until 29th March 2018 and members of the public are invited to read through the full consultation document and share their views. The document and further details can be found at:

Alternatively paper copies will be available at the Council’s HDL buildings in Widnes and Runcorn.

The outcome of the consultation will be reported to Council at a meeting expected to take place in April 2018. If satisfied, the Council will resolve to make an updated RUCSO.

Once the updated RUCSO has been made, it is intended that it will have immediate effect, since it does not change the toll charges payable and it will be advertised. The existing RUCSO will be revoked by the updated RUCSO is made.