This article is from Alison's weekly column for the Wirral News. This post is from 12th February and can be read on the Wirral News website here.
Last week Merseytravel took the decision to increase the Mersey Tunnel tolls. Whilst I am disappointed that they have taken this decision, I am pleased that they have listened to my pleas not to raise them as much as they were permitted to do.
Despite the recent good news for the UK economy, the benefits have not reached most Wirral residents. Under the Tories families have been squeezed, with tax credits cut, VAT increased and food prices rising. Since 2010 energy bills are up £300 and childcare costs have gone up 30%. As wages have not been keeping pace with inflation, I think it was the wrong time for Merseytravel to make the increase.
The angst that increases in the tolls causes Wirral’s motorists will happen every February, when Merseytravel must by law consider increasing the tolls. That is why I believe we need to revisit this legislation, and to have a hard look at how to manage the tunnels in the future. Despite the bleating of local Tories, their Government has not announced any plans to do so.
The tunnel is still the cheapest way to cross the River Mersey compared with trains, buses and the ferry, Merseytravel must look at how it can improve public transport so that it is easier and cheaper to use. Moving more people to public transport rather than using their car, and the tunnel, will be beneficial to our environment and our local economy. We have seen an improving network in some ways: more trains on the Wirral line for example. Yet I am frustrated that the move to and Oyster-style ticket system to help people save time and money is still way too far away. And bus services still need more integration all over the Wirral, not to mention the rest of Merseyside.
Meanwhile, fast Tags are still the cheapest way to use the tunnels. The discount it provides means that for every six journeys the equivalent of the seventh would be free. They also offer the convenience of not having to find the correct change. I would encourage Wirral motorists to take advantage of the Fast Tag discount and apply online here.