Rush to open Mersey Gateway Bridge has left businesses at sea, says FTA
Thursday 12 October 2017
Plans to open the Mersey Gateway Bridge with just two working days’ notice show a complete disregard for local businesses, says the Freight Transport Association. Companies who are unsighted on the toll operations have not been given enough time to prepare adequately for the simultaneous introduction of tolls on two Mersey crossings, from just after midnight on Saturday (14 October).
The new six-lane Mersey Gateway Bridge links the towns of Runcorn and Widnes and is designed to relieve congestion on the Silver Jubilee Bridge. However, tolls are to be introduced on both crossings, at the same time as the Mersey Gateway Bridge is opened for traffic.
Local businesses have been given little information about the opening date, which was variously announced as being sometime between early September and late October. As a result, FTA , the leading membership association for the freight and logistics industry, believes the time given for firms to plan and prepare for the implementation of the new tolls has been entirely inadequate.
Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s Head of Policy for the North, says the rushed announcement demonstrates a complete indifference to the needs of business users:
“This announcement is going to cause a great deal of stress for firms of all shapes and sizes who have to use these Mersey crossings. Many of these companies are not based in the north west and may not even be aware of the introduction of tolls.
“Business users need time to allocate resources and staff, set-up internal procedures and ensure all their vehicles are registered to pay the tolls. The process of registration for the Merseyflow scheme is far too cumbersome and complicated and while there is a fleet registrations process companies and drivers may underestimate the time and effort needed to get everything in place.
“Urgent measures are needed to provide a clear contact point for businesses to handle complaints and provide a simple process for dealing with penalty notices – with so little time to prepare, it is certain that there will be a large number of these issued in the first few days and weeks of operation, as businesses and consumers adjust.”
FTA has also issuing an urgent traffic warning to all its members to alert them to the unexpected change. Bingham adds:
“The decision to introduce tolls with so little notice is going to cause real problems for business users of the Mersey bridges and I urge the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board to take immediate action to help companies adapt to the changes and ensure they’re not unfairly penalised.”
FTA Press Office