CAMPAIGNERS have lost their battle to prevent the Manchester Ship Canal Company from raising tolls from 12p to £1 for motorists using the Rixton and Warburton Toll Bridge.
The findings of an inspector at a public inquiry held in Warrington last November, have today (Friday) been largely rubber-stamped by the Secretary of State.
The additional funds raised will go towards the ongoing upkeep of the controversial toll bridge, with objectors believing the Manchester Ship Canal Company should pay for the upkeep, with the original toll bridge, covered by the original act of parliament, not part of the existing structure.
One of those who had objected to the proposals, Lymm Cllr Graham Gowland said: “It’s positive in that Peel now have no excuse not to properly maintain their asset – a bridge they’ve sadly allowed to become dilapidated. The rise in tolls and the potential for excessive fines concerns many residents, however, and this aspect is very disappointing. The owners of the Manchester Ship Canal need to consider their responsibilities as custodians of a major North West Asset, and not just consider further increasing their already huge returns.”
The ship canal company has previously announced it intends to spend £6.5m improving the bridge.
The application related to a crossing of the Manchester Ship Canal and a proposal for a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) to, amongst other matters, increase the existing level of tolls to fund repairs and improvements to the crossing and provide for its long-term operation.
The application sought to raise the toll charged for crossing the Bridge to a maximum of £1 per trip, with the option for rate rises in line with Consumer Prices Index (CPI), less 1%, to include creation of a reserve fund and the introduction of a free-flow tolling approach. The Order contains provisions to make new byelaws and to transfer the Undertaking to the Rixton and Warburton Bridge Company Limited (the New Co), should MSCC so resolve.
A very significant number of objections were raised, and the Inquiry was able to hear from a number of local residents, interested parties and Members of Parliament (MPs). Substantive objections were raised by the two neighbouring local authorities, Trafford Council and Warrington Borough Council (WBC), who took a full part in the Inquiry, presenting evidence and closing statements.
Local residents will be subject of a 50 per cent discount.
“local resident” means a person who permanently resides at a property in one of the following postcodes—
(a) WA3 6;
(b) WA13 9; or
(c) M31 4;
The level of unpaid toll charges to be applied to a vehicle in accordance with bye-law 23 will be—
(a) £30.00 (thirty pounds) in addition to the toll payable when paid in full within fourteen days beginning with the relevant date;
(b) £60.00 (sixty pounds) in addition to the toll payable when paid in full between fourteen days from the relevant date and twenty-eight days following the relevant date;
(c) £100.00 (one hundred pounds) in addition to the toll payable when paid in full after twenty-eight days following the relevant date.
The Order revises the tolls which The Manchester Ship Canal Company Limited (“MSCC”) may charge for use of the Rixton and Warburton Bridge and supersedes the toll levels set out in the Rixton and Warburton Bridge Act 1863.
This Order contains provisions for local user discount and provisions in relation to Improvements to the Rixton and Warburton Bridge to be completed before MSCC can charge the tolls in accordance with the Order.
This Order contains provisions for MSCC, to make new byelaws in relation to the good management and use of the Rixton and Warburton Bridge in order to safeguard the navigation of the Manchester Ship Canal.
This Order contains provisions for MSCC to transfer the Rixton and Warburton Bridge Undertaking to the Rixton and Warburton Bridge Company Limited, should MSCC so resolve.
Provision is made for byelaws and agreements made or entered into by MSCC to remain in force as if they had been made or entered into by The Rixton and Warburton Company Limited and for legal and other proceedings to be carried on by or in relation to MSCC.
The Inspector concluded that the proposed scheme is necessary, reasonable and deliverable through the Order (IR 9.2). Where the Inspector has recommended that the Secretary of State make his own judgement as to the interpretation of the relevant legislation (IR 9.3), for the reasons set out in this letter, the Secretary of State has
satisfied himself that the undertaking includes the Rixton and Warburton High Level Bridge and that this undertaking is considered to be self-financing through the
collection of tolls. He has also satisfied himself that this application under the TWA13 1992 is the most appropriate legislative route to meet the aims of the scheme.
The Secretary of State heard a compelling case in favour of the scheme and is in agreement with the Inspector that any adverse impact, particularly in relation to
the increase in the toll, is outweighed by the public benefits delivered by the scheme.
The Secretary of State has had regard to all matters set out above and has therefore determined in accordance with section 13(1) of the TWA 1992 to make the Order under sections 3 and 5 of the TWA 1992, subject to a number of minor modifications which do not make any substantial change in the proposal such as would require notification to the affected persons under section 13(4) of the TWA 1992.
Any person who is aggrieved by the making of the Order may challenge its validity, or the validity of any provision in it, because—
• it is not within the powers of the TWA; or
• any requirement imposed by or under the TWA has not been complied with.
Any such challenge may be made, by application to the High Court, within the period of 42 days beginning with the day on which notice of this determination is published in the London Gazette as required by section 14(1)(b) of the TWA. This notice is expected to be published within 3 working days of the date of the decision letter.
A person who thinks they may have grounds for challenging the decision to make the Order is advised to seek legal advice before taking action.
Full details can be read here: