A journey through one of the two Mersey Tunnels is set to rise in price for the first time since 2017 under a proposal announced today. Tony McDonough reports
A single journey from one of the two Mersey Tunnels is set to rise by 20p to £2, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (CA) said on Thursday.
If approved by the six city region local authorities at this month’s CA meeting, the rise will come into force on April 1. Motorists using the Fast Tag or T-Flow prepayment systems will still get a discount but the single journey costs will still rise from £1 to £1.20.
This will be the first rise in tolls for the Kingway and Queensway tunnels since Steve Rotheram was first elected Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor in 2017. He said today that rising costs related to the pandemic, increased maintenance costs and other budgetary pressures were behind the decision.
He points out that the rate change will mean that many motorists are still be paying £1.10 less than the maximum amount authorised by the Tunnels Act, and only the same toll as tunnels users in 2004 despite inflation since then being 76%.
Under the changes, most tunnel users will continue to benefit from the discounted toll available to Liverpool City Region residents – with around 60,000 regular daily prepaid Fast Tag or T-Flow users taking advantage of the reductions.
Mr Rotheram said: “COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the public sector over the past two years and the Combined Authority is not immune to that. The costs of keeping our region running, supporting the local economy through the worst of the pandemic and investing to kickstart our recovery have been significant.
“The Government’s failure to deliver its promise of ‘whatever it takes’ in funding support has tied our hands financially. It means that difficult decisions need to be taken to keep vital public services running while also investing for the future.”
Mersey Tunnels are not part of the national road network and receive no Government funding to support their operation and upkeep. The loans originally taken out to fund the tunnels will not be paid off until 2048, with this money not only relating to the building of the tunnels but also to their maintenance and improvement.
Millions of pounds are spent each year on running and maintaining the Queensway and Kingsway tunnels, which are over 80 and 50 years old respectively. Their electricity costs total more than £1m a year.
Mr Rotheram added: “Given the financial pressures the pandemic has forced on us – and the moral duty we have to tackle the climate emergency – we have taken the decision this year to raise Mersey Tunnel tolls to help us balance the books.”