With the launch of the new Mersey Gateway bridge last month, many local residents from Liverpool and Runcorn were understandably miffed that the bridge would be tolled. Now, a surge of fines will leave many concerned.
The Liverpool Echo reports that 50,000+ Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) have been issued since the Mersey Gateway opened on October 14. If we presume that the majority of those people paid the standard £40 PCN charge, then the owners of the bridge stand to make a quick £2,000,000 – not bad for the first month of operations. Concerns are now growing that the bridge could stand to make this amount every month, which will leave some local residents angry.
Before the Mersey Gateway opened to the public, there were petitions to allow local residents to cross the bridge free of charge due to their proximity to it, and the impact it would have on their daily commute. Locals believed that the bridge was being sold to them as a faster and better way to get to work, but at their expense with some saying that their daily commutes will now cost them over £900 extra per year. Many locals are turning to lengthier commutes that avoid the bridge completely.
A representative for the Mersey Gateway said that these fines don’t represent a typical month and that people shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that this first month is a sign of how much the bridge would earn from fines in the long term.
“The fines will be used for construction and maintenance cost for the bridge.”
MERSEY GATEWAY SPOKESPERSON
It’s worth noting that if you pay your fine within 14 days of receiving it, you would only have to pay £20, but if you leave it longer than 28 days then the fine will rise to £60. This means that the Mersey Gateway stands to earn between £1 million and £3 million in their first month from fines alone.
95% of drivers were said to have paid their toll on time, but the remaining 5% will be fined for failure to fork over their fee. The fines will be used to pay for construction and maintenance costs for the bridge, the Liverpool Echo were told.
John McGoldrick, a campaigner from the National Alliance Against Tolls, said that the number of fines doesn’t come as a surprise. He points out that a similar outcome can be seen at the Dartford Crossing in Essex, a crossing that uses the same administration firm as the new Mersey Gateway. He says that it’s obvious that more drivers will be caught out on a bridge like the one between Liverpool and Runcorn because you can cross a barrier without having to stop (unlike the Mersey Tunnel where you’re forced to stop at a barrier and pay). “There’s been an incredible amount of fines [at the Dartford Crossing],” he said, “It makes nearly £1 million a week”. With slightly lower traffic flow going across the Mersey Gateway, he estimated that we would see a flow of fines in the area of £500,000 per week when people become used to using the bridge instead of avoiding it.
The Mersey Gateway spokeswoman said: “While we would prefer all users paid their crossings on time, the PCN process is in place in order to ensure the minority of people who do not pay are effectively dealt with and the lost revenue is recovered.” They say that they expect the number of PCNs issued to decrease over time as drivers adapt to the new crossing and payment mechanisms. The spokesperson continued, “We have actively tried to make the payment process as easy as possible for our users.”