AN extraordinary meeting of Warrington Borough Council has been called for Monday to oppose The Peel Group’s controversial plans to increase charges on Warburton Toll Bridge from 12p to £1 – a whopping rise of 733 per cent.
Local Cllrs on Warrington Borough Council Conservative Opposition Group have spoken out strongly against the proposed Warburton Bridge toll hike.
The current proposals would see the 12 pence charge increase to a “whopping” £1 per crossing, representing a hike of nearly 733%.
The Peel Group, who controls and operates the bridge, is claiming that the hike is necessary to cover a proposed £6 million ball-park figure for necessary maintenance and repairs and is seeking an act of parliament to bring in the changes = prompting the extraordinary meeting of the council.
Cllr Joshua Dixon, (Con) one of the representatives for Rixton & Woolston, commented: “The toll was originally granted and justified to cover maintenance costs. However, the Peel Group has certainly had a large amount of income over the years and should use this to cover the costs of all the overdue maintenance and repairs, not pass them on to hardworking people’.
A toll of £1 per crossing, the Conservatives argue, will be prohibitive for those making several journeys per day, such as those making the school run or commuting to work. Additionally, they say that if reduced toll zones are declared for residents who live nearby on both sides of the crossing, then the areas should include Glazebrook and Lymm as well as the suggested postcode areas of WA3 6 and WA13.
Cllr Phil Eastty, also representing Rixton & Woolston, stated: “Peel has typically ignored those who live within a stone’s throw of the crossing, using an arbitrary postcode system to determine the reduced crossing charges. It seems they are more focussed on making profits than serving the interests of the community’.
Additionally, in the outcome that the toll increase cannot be prevented, the Conservatives uniquely are calling for any potential fines for missed payments be ring-faced for maintenance and repairs. Cllr Joshua Dixon said, ‘To profit from fines on top of an already outrageously high and unjustified crossing fare would only add insult to injury. Peel should do the decent thing and guarantee that any monies raised will be ringfenced for the proper maintenance, operating costs and quality road surfacing of Warburton Bridge’.
At the Council’s Extraordinary meeting scheduled for Monday 17 January 2022, the Conservative Group will be objecting to the proposals and voting in favour of submitting a clear and uncompromising response to Peel’s prioritising of profits over the interests of the good of the community.
The Borough Council announced its opposition to the proposals last August.
Cllr leader Cllr. Russ Bowden said at the time in a strongly worded letter to Peel: “While welcoming the proposed upgrade of the bridge and its approach roads as well as the introduction of an automated tolling system that will reduce queues and delays, however we are strongly opposed to your proposed significant increase in tolls of potentially up to £1 for a single trip and £2 for a daily ticket.
“The Council supports your proposals to invest in the bridge, including the approach roads as well as the tolling system as this will future proof the bridge for many years to come. The automated tolling system will greatly reduce delays and congestion, particularly at peak times. The Council also welcomes your plans to investigate strengthening the bridge as part of the refurbishment work in order to allow buses to use the bridge more frequently.”
“Whilst Warrington Borough Council acknowledges that a significant upgrade to the bridge is much needed and welcomes these plans and the benefits this investment will bring to all
users, it is strongly against the cost of this investment being passed onto local motorists through your proposed significant increase in tolls.
“Under your plans, you are proposing to fund these improvements through increasing tolls from 12p per crossing to up to £1 per crossing. The Council finds it completely unacceptable
that motorists should bear the brunt of this investment and we are extremely concerned by the scale of the proposed increases which could find motorists paying up to eight times more per trip than the current charge.
“This is a substantial increase which could have a significant financial impact on motorists, particularly those who need to use the bridge regularly to get to work or visit family and as
such, Warrington Borough Council would like to see the tolls removed completely or at worst, kept at the current levels.”
At the meeting, a detailed report setting out the Council’s proposed objections to the plans will be considered by members. They will be asked to approve, by vote, the sending of the objection to the Secretary of State.
The Extraordinary Meeting of Full Council takes place at 1 Time Square, WA1 2EN on Monday, 17 January at 6.30pm.
Cllr Joshua Dixon protesting last summer