Mersey Gateway Bridge toll penalties ‘may not be legally binding’

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Backhouse Jones has claimed that ‘the floodgates may be about to open’ for a number of appeals on payment of the Mersey Gateway Bridge toll, after the Traffic Penalty Tribunal (TPT) recently ruled that such charges may in fact not be legally binding.

The Mersey Gateway Bridge opened in October 2017 and the single tolls to cross it are currently £2 for cars, £6 for a small lorry and £8 for a larger lorry or coach.

It is understood that around 10 million vehicles have crossed the Bridge since it opened, and 250,000 penalty charge notices have been issued to those who have failed to pay the toll.

On April 6, 2018, the TPT published an adjudication decision finding a motorist not liable to pay the £2 charge. The reasoning behind this was apparently because Halton Borough Council had not been specific about the price of the toll and had not actually stipulated the sum in the Mersey Gateway Road User Charging Scheme Order 2017 (Order).

Furthermore, the Council had failed to publish a notice in at least one newspaper circulating in Halton, a procedural requirement in addition to publishing one in the London Gazette (which it did). The TPT found that as a consequence of this, the toll did not comply with the Transport Act 2000 and the two fines were quashed.

The council said it plans to rigorously dispute the decision and believes the Order to be legally sound. It urged motorists to continue to pay the tolls to use the bridge or risk a penalty notice.

However, despite this, it is understood that the Order is likely to be updated to make charges clearer. It is also now being claimed that the Council failed to give correct notice of charges on the £600m Runcorn to Widnes crossing as well.

The TPT is said to be conducting a case review on May 8, 2018 and in anticipation of this, has put 456 appeals on hold pending the outcome.

Ian Jones, Solicitor and Director at Backhouse Jones, told CBW: “There was a consultation on amending the Mersey Gateway Road User Charging Scheme Order 2017 recently and we anticipate that closing this loophole will be top of the list of the amendments to that Order.

“In terms of the impact on those in the PCV sector in the meantime, we expect that more will be revealed once the review has taken place on May 8, 2018.”