WIRRAL motorists are facing the possibility of a 10p increase in Mersey tunnel tolls for cars.
Cash-strapped transport authority Merseytravel will miss out on generating an additional £2.6m unless it agrees the rise.
Under the Mersey Tunnels Act it can raise the level of tolls – currently £1.50 for a car – by the level of inflation each year. But in past years it has discounted the rate.
In November inflation was measured at 2.7%, meaning the “authorised” level Merseytravel could charge cars for using the tunnels from April is £1.80.
Although that 30p increase does not appear likely, a new report discusses the impact of a 10p rise. But it stops short of proposing it – instead calling on officials to formulate a recommendation in time for a meeting next month.
The report said: “From a financial perspective, a decision not to increase the actual tolls will result in a potential loss of revenue of £2.6m for the authority.
“However any decision to increase tolls is likely to result in adverse publicity and the relevant risks this brings. To mitigate this risk fast tag discount levels could be maintained for most frequent users.”
The report said decisions on setting the tolls are no longer taken in isolation, with the new tolled bridge between Widnes and Runcorn on the horizon.
It said: “The proposed Mersey Gateway crossing toll with have a link to the Mersey tunnel toll levels and therefore applying high levels of discount against the authorised toll levels will impact on the Mersey Gateway business plan significantly.”
A 10p rise for cars – £1.50 to £1.60 – equates to about 7%.
The report stated the “default position is that tolls must rise in line with inflation” and the cost of using the tunnels “must keep pace with other transport alternatives”.
It added: “It ensures sufficient funds are recouped to cover the costs of operating and maintaining tunnels.
“It ensures the authority continues to receive a valuable surplus from the tolls which is then invested into public transport alternatives.”
John McGoldrick, secretary of the Tunnel Users Association, said: “The more years which go by without a toll increase, the more likely it is that there is going to be a rise.
‘‘No doubt there will be somebody trotting out the usual excuses that train and bus fares have gone up.”