Today I've launched a campaign for the bridge to be free at Christmas. I am of course still campaigning for the government to keep their promise - but I think whilst we continue that campaign, the toll operators should make the bridge free for a defined point over Christmas. I explain why below! Let me know if you support my campaign. Mike
Local MP calls on Bridge Bosses to waive tolls over Christmas
Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury submits request to key meeting of Mersey Gateway Crossings Board and Toll Operator
Plan could let staff spend Christmas at home - and be a festive boost for visitors, friends and family of local residents, says MP
FOI figures show major spike in fines around Christmas Day when applied to similar bridge in Dartford
Mersey Tunnels already free on Christmas Day
Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury is calling on Mersey Gateway bosses to let people cross the new bridge for free on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day.
In a request submitted to the Chief Executive of the Board, Mr Amesbury, a well-known critic of the tolls, has called for bosses to waive fees for the period – believing that many friends, family and visitors of local residents may be caught unawares and fined over Christmas.
If they are aware, they will be required to spend time on Christmas or Boxing Day phoning up or registering online in order to pay the charge. This also means that many staff will likely be required to be in work supporting the payment system over Christmas – as opposed to spending it at home with their own loved ones.
Mr Amesbury believes it would be a welcome gesture of goodwill during the festive season,. It would also help the area avoid the significant negative publicity that would likely result from numerous travellers returning home from their Christmas break to an unwelcome fine.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Mike show that the Dartford Crossing, also operated by Mersey Bridge tolling company Emovis, issued almost 17,000 fines from 24-26 December in the first year of ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) operation, above the average of just under 4000 per day – and he hopes to avoid a repeat here.
“Under current plans, thousands of Christmas visitors to our region will have to spend precious time on Christmas day on phones or computers paying tolls. I also fear that people from outside the immediate area will be using the new system for the first time when they visit friends and family, and may not be aware of the tolls – meaning an unwelcome Christmas present of a £40 fine”
“Figures from similar crossings elsewhere suggest this is a real risk – so I very much hope we can avoid doing the same here. The most simple and effective way to do this is to waive the fees for a defined period over Christmas.”
“whilst I welcome the access to the Local User Discount scheme for the majority of my constituents in Halton – that isn’t something that is available to residents in Cheshire West and Chester, despite previous pledges from the government. A Christmas suspension would benefit not just those who don’t currently have free travel, but also the friends and family of those who do. It’s a win win”
“Perhaps most importantly though, my proposal could mean many employees working to support the tolling operation will be able to have Christmas and Boxing Day off. We all want to spend Christmas with those closest to us, and whilst many people like Emergency service workers have no option other than to work to protect us and keep vital services going, that isn’t necessarily the case here”
“I know that unions including the CWU back the campaign, and I’m aware from talking to staff employed by Emovis that people are being required to work on Christmas day who would rather have the time off”
His proposal has been tabled in advance of the meeting on 14th November. Early discussions suggest that a number of decision makers would need to support the move – but Mr Amesbury is hopeful they’ll back the idea.
“I’m warned that there are legal, commercial and governmental issues to be considered, but I hope these can be overcome if the will is there. Figures so far seem to suggest that the bridge has been a big success, so I do hope commercial interests can afford to give up a small amount of profit at such a special time – and I have already been in touch with Ministers to ask them not to stand in the way of what would be a very welcome gesture”
“The Mersey Tunnels are free on Christmas day – so I refuse to believe that these problems are insurmountable. It is Christmas after all!”