Both Mersey Ferry commuter services and tolls on the Mersey Tunnels are set to return after being suspended due to the coronavirus lockdown. Tony McDonough reports
Both Mersey Ferries services and Mersey Tunnel tolls are to be reinstated following their temporary suspension during the coronavirus lockdown.
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has announced that the Mersey Ferries will return to the river as weekday commuter services will resume from this Thursday, May 14.
The announcement comes as more people are expected to travel and return to work this week following the Prime Minister’s announcement regarding a limited easing of lockdown restrictions.
The ferries were temporarily suspended during lockdown due to a significant decrease in demand, which saw only a handful of passengers on each service. However, that demand is expected to increase as some people return to work and the ferries will provide an important option for cross-river river travel.
The commuter service runs between Seacombe and Liverpool, from 7.20am to 10am and again from 4pm to 7pm. The daytime hour-long river cruises will not be returning for the moment.
This Thursday will also see the Mersey Tunnel tolls re-instated from 6am. The temporary suspension of the tolls was introduced when lockdown was announced to support key workers making essential journeys.
Now that lockdown restrictions are easing, and non-essential traffic has seen the doubling of journeys, tolls will be reinstated and there will be no increase this financial year. Tunnel customers will be asked to pay by Fast tag, contactless bank card, or the exact cash amount as staff will be unable to give change, to protect both customers and staff.
The temporary relaxation of the byelaws that also allowed cyclists to make essential journeys through the Queensway (Birkenhead) tunnel will now also be removed for safety reasons, due to the increased volume of traffic.
In addition, the temporary lifting of the 9.30am concessionary travel restrictions will also be removed from Thursday, May 14, to reduce demand during peak times. Social distancing should still be observed, and government guidance followed, including face coverings where appropriate.
Merseytravel is continuing to work closely with the Government and transport operators on plans to increase the capacity of public transport services, as safely as possible, as further national guidance is issued and clarified.
Mr Rotheram said: “Safety must be the guiding principle as we start to get transport moving and I must stress that public transport won’t be returning to pre-lockdown levels for some time. Adhering to social distancing continues to be vital, which means much less space is available for customers on buses, trains and ferries.
“We are already seeing more people starting to travel and expect that to continue to increase following the Prime Minister’s announcement. So now is the right time to reintroduce ferry services, reinstate tunnel tolls and the 9.30am concessionary travel restriction as these were always temporary measures.”