A CRUCIAL vote on increasing Mersey tunnel tolls appeared too close to call last night.
The Daily Post understands a Merseytravel committee scheduled to consider the 10p increase on Thursday could split, with nine votes for and nine against the move.
That could leave Sefton councillor Mark Dowd, Labour chairman of Merseytravel, with the decisive casting vote.
The knife edge nature of the vote emerged as business and political leaders in Wirral united in condemning the planned hike.
All of Wirral’s main political party leaders called on Merseytravel – which sets the tolls – to consider the impact of a rise in travelling between Wirral and Liverpool on the local economy. Under the proposals, tunnel tolls will rise by 10p from April.
It means a standard trip through the tunnels for a car will cost £1.50.
Wirral West MP Esther McVey said it was “the wrong increase at the wrong time” and Alison McGovern, MP of Wirral South, called on Merseytravel to show what steps they had already taken to make savings.
Users of the Fast Tag system would see smaller increases across the classes of vehicles under the proposals, starting at £1.30 for Class 1.
Under the RPI rules of the Mersey Tunnels Act, the tolls could have increased to £1.60 for cars and up to £6.50 for Class 4 vehicles.
Last year, car tolls were kept at £1.40 for “economic” reasons.
A report to the transport authority by Merseytravel chief executive Neil Scales claimed toll increases help protect the tunnels against increased congestion, cover the cost of the tunnels, with the excess invested in “public transport alternatives across Merseyside”.
Mr Scales also highlighted a transport consultant’s report which said that, if tolls were removed, tunnel congestion would increase by “up to 40%”.
Mr Scales added: “The clear effect of the tolls is to protect the Wirral retail economy.”
Last night, the Mersey Tunnels Users Association described that as “ludicrous” and said it ran “counter to common sense”.
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