ANGER is mounting over the decision by Peel Ports to bring back the controversial 12p tolls on the Warburton Toll Bridge this week, after suspending them on health and safety grounds in March due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Since early on in the lockdown, the tolls have been withdrawn following a review of the safety aspects.
Lymm North and Thelwall Liberal Democrat Borough Councillors Cllr Ian Marks and Cllr Bob Barr say, “We were very pleased when Peel did the right thing and withdrew the tolls. There had been a lot of pressure from the public to do this. But we are not happy that they have re-introduced them at this stage. We have no doubt that they have done this following guidance from the experts, but that doesn’t mean they had to make the change now.
“There are two main issues. Firstly there is social distancing in the small cabin for the two members of staff who collect the toll money, not to mention social distancing between staff and drivers. Secondly there is the touching of coins because change will often have to be given as part of the 12p toll charge transaction. Staff may be wearing gloves but the public won’t be.
“We know that the operation of tolls at the best of times on this Bridge is a highly contentious matter, but we really think Peel should have delayed the introduction until the pandemic is less virulent. We ask them to think again.”
The Warburton Toll Bridge Action Group has been campaigning for several years to have the booth scrapped and there has been mounting anger on their social media at the re-introduction of the 12p toll which was suspended on March on health and safety grounds.
Many believe the tolls should be scrapped completely due to the traffic congestion they cause on a regular basis.
Meanwhile a spokesperson for Peel Ports said: “As the government eases lockdown restrictions and issues new guidelines for workplaces to resume operation, we are removing the toll suspension in line with guidance and other UK tolled crossings. This will come into effect from 1st June.
“It will continue to be a cash only operation and to ensure we keep contact between toll booth staff and bridge users to a minimum, we have introduced remote collection procedures for depositing cash. This does mean we will not be able to provide change, so users will need to ensure they have the correct money available. Regular bridge users can purchase an annual pass online.
“We have introduced a range of new health and safety measures based on the latest medical guidance from the government and Public Health England.
“Under the ‘Working safely during Covid-19’ guidance issued by the government, which requires that every reasonable effort to apply social distancing (keeping people 2m apart wherever possible) be applied, the guidance also acknowledges that there may be occasions, in relation to particular activities, when these guidelines cannot be followed and further mitigating actions put in place to reduce the risk of transmission between staff.
“To do this our operators have been provided with PPE equipment including facemasks and gloves, increased handwashing and sanitisation is taking place and staff are using back-to-back or side-to-side working.
“Finally, the structure of the booth window offers a protective screen between operators and drivers.
“The health and safety of all persons using and operating the toll bridge is, and will continue to be, Peel Ports’ number one priority.”
How safe do you feel handing your money to the Toll Brigde operator potentially contaminating each other as cash is exchanged ? pic.twitter.com/FePYMQJqQf
— Warburton Toll Bridge Action Group (@warburtontoll) June 1, 2020
Please remember to be cautious when handing over cash at the toll booth.
Whilst many retail & service organisations are encouraging people to pay by card, the Bridge are still handling cash. Ensure you have the right money to avoid receiving change which may be Covid infected pic.twitter.com/IQuipx8XOB
— Warburton Toll Bridge Action Group (@warburtontoll) June 2, 2020