WARRINGTON Borough Council has slammed proposals to raise the fee to cross Warburton Toll Bridge to fund upgrades.

This follows plans by Manchester Ship Canal Company, which owns and operates the crossing between Warburton and Rixton, to increase the crossing fee from 12p per trip to £1 a trip, or 50p per trip for people who live locally.

The company, which is owned by Peel Ports, says the increase is necessary to fund a £6.5million project to upgrade the bridge and approach roads, introduce an automated tolling system, reduce queues and delays and restrict unsuitable vehicles.

But the council says that while it welcomes any proposals to invest in the bridge, it is against the costs of these improvements being passed on to local motorists.

Cllr Hans Mundry, cabinet member for transportation, highways and public realm, said: “We acknowledge that a significant upgrade of Warburton and Rixton Toll Bridge, to bring it into the 21st century, has been needed for some time.

Council ‘absolutely cannot’ support ‘unacceptable’ Warburton Toll Bridge fee rise

Council ‘absolutely cannot’ support ‘unacceptable’ Warburton Toll Bridge fee rise

“At the same time, it is clear that the cash only toll booth payment method needs to be updated.

“It is an archaic system which causes queues and delays and brings major frustration to many, many motorists.

“Any proposals to invest in the future of the bridge are to be welcomed, however it is completely unacceptable that motorists should have to bear the brunt of these costs.

“We are extremely concerned by these toll increase proposals, which could see bridge users paying up to eight times more per trip than the current charge.

“Some years ago, the Government committed to free tolls for local residents who regularly use the Mersey Gateway bridge – now we find that potentially local residents will have to also pay an astronomic toll to cross the Warburton bridge.

“This is a substantial increase which would have a real financial impact on motorists, particularly those who need to use the bridge regularly to get to work or visit family.

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“We absolutely cannot support this, and that is why we are writing to Peel Ports to state our strong opposition and to urge them to reconsider their proposals.

“We urge you to also share your views and concerns.”

Peel Ports has launched a four-week public consultation for views on its Sustainable Investment Plan for the toll bridge.

The council says it is providing a formal response to the consultation to state its firm opposition to any increase in tolls, and it is asking residents to also have their say.

You can do so by taking part in the consultation via warburtontollbridge.co.uk