(page created 1 May 2010)
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MERSEY GATEWAY - THE RUNCORN BRIDGES AND THE 2010 ELECTION
WHAT WE ASKED
On the 6th May as well as local annual elections in most areas, there is a General Election. We contacted the regional offices for the three main parties and said -
"We are seeking the views of General Election candidates on the plans for the existing and new Runcorn bridges.
As the candidates will presumably know, the current Government have said that any new road crossing between Runcorn and Widnes would have to be tolled. As drivers would not use the new bridge if it was tolled, the plan is that the existing bridge would also be tolled, with the result that it is officially forecast that cross river traffic between Runcorn and Widnes will be less with two bridges than it is now with one.
We are against the tolling for reasons which are in various documents, including - our closing submission to last yearís Public Inquiry.
The list of candidates who's view we are seeking is at the bottom of this message. They are all standing for a constituency that will be affected by the plans. Our question for candidates is quite simple - Do they or do they not support the Council / Government plan?
I appreciate that you and the candidates will be very busy, but we would appreciate an answer from them."
The list of candidates covered eight seats - Ellesmere Port & Neston, Garston & Halewood, Halton, Knowsley, St Helens South & Whiston, Tatton, Warrington South and Weaver Vale.
We got no replies!
VIEWS OBTAINED BY THE RUNCORN AND WIDNES WEEKLY NEWS
They asked the candidates for two of the seats - Halton and Weaver Vale - "Do you feel the Mersey Gateway project is the answer to the area's road problems and do you think the introduction of tolls is the best way forward?" and they got answers part of which is shown below -
Some of the candidates had a lot more to say than others. None of them mention that the existing bridge will be almost shut down as tolling will substantially reduce its capacity our Dominoes page. Many of them do not even mention the tolling of the present bridge!
Some of them say that "residents" may not have to pay or may get "discounts". None of them seem to realise that as the bridges will be privately operated and that as about half of the bridge users are "residents", it will be almost impossible to do this. Neither does it seem to have occurred to them that this might be illegal - otherwise why wouldn't neighbouring areas retaliate by putting a toll on some of their roads and say that their residents would be exempt?
Derek Twigg - Labour "The new bridge is unaffordable without tolls. Ideally I would want to see residents exempted from tolls."
Ben Jones - Tory "In relation to tolls we need to be straight with people. Without tolling there will be no bridge, we need to toll the existing bridge otherwise it will not be used, and will not deliver the benefits we know it can. I know tolling is difficult to accept, that's why my focus is on getting a fair deal for local residents and businesses, securing the maximum possible discounts."
Frank Harasiwka - Lib Dem "If elected as Halton's MP, I would argue strongly that the new bribge should be toll-free. All tolls on road bridges in Scotland were abolished in 2008 and it is perverse that Halton's residents would need to pay to travel within their own borough. If elected as Haltonís MP, I would argue strongly that the new bridge should be toll free. All tolls on road bridges in Scotland were abolished in 2008 and it is perverse that Haltonís residents would need to pay to travel within their own Borough. I would seek to assemble a coalition of like-minded individuals and organizations to press for toll free passage. If that is not possible, there must be high discounts and free off-peak travel for local residents.
Labourís argument that a toll rate akin to that charged by the Mersey tunnels is absurd and quite unfair to locals as the circumstances for the link are quite different. I am concerned that the costs associated with consultancy work have been excessive in that some of the work undertaken was not necessary to secure planning permission."
John Moore - UKIP "However, we are told that a toll-free new bridge is simply not an option as the Government has informed Halton that it will not fund the whole cost of the project. As a supporter of UKIP, I can't help reflecting on the fact that the total cost is less than what it costs this country to be in the EU for nine days only!"
Jim Craig - Green Party - He is against building a new bridge and said nothing about tolls.
Andrew Taylor - BNP "The new bridge will have to be paid for and a toll is one way of doing it. However, I am totally opposed to the introduction of a toll on the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge. A system should be put in place to keep travel on the existing bridge free for the people of Halton. If the proposed toll on the Silver Jubilee Bridge goes ahead it will be the first time a charging order has ever been placed on a bridge which was built at public expense. It will also make Halton the only area in the country divided by a toll.
Halton Borough Council's Mersey Gateway Project consultation programme asked how people thought the Silver Jubilee Bridge could be redeveloped for local users. The most popular response was to leave it as it is. The Silver Jubilee bridge should remain free to the people of Halton."
John Stockton - Labour "I also believe that if tolls have to be charged then residents should ideally be allowed to use both bridges free of charge and I will work hard to secure the best deal for local people."
Graham Evans - Tory "I do have some concerns with .. the level of toll pricing. Unfortunately there will have to be some fee to pay, so as to make sure the bridge is economicaly viable. I will be looking for significant discounts for local people by campaigning to keep the price down as low as possible"
Peter Hampson - Lib Dem "I believe that the new bridge should be toll free, just as the road bridges in Scotland are, and if elected as Weaver Valeís MP I would campaign strongly for this. Following problems with the Skye Bridge and other PFI agreements all tolls were scrapped in Scotland in 2008.
It seems absurd to me that local people would need to pay to travel within their own Borough. Free passage is essential and if elected I would work with other like minded people and organizations in the area to assemble a coalition to campaign for a scrappage of tolls. If completely toll free passage were in no way possible then at the very least there must be discounts or free passes for local residents and lower fares for off-peak users so that any adverse impact on the community and local business can be reduced."
Paul Remfry - UKIP "Toll roads were necessary in the 18th century when NO government taxes were raised as this was the only way to make and maintain roads. Snce then the Government has taken over the roads and is supposed to raise the costs for their maintenance and improvement by implementing various road taxes.
For years the LibLabCon have misspent the money raised for road maintenace and enhancement so that our roads are congested and full of potholes.
You pay £3.45 tax on each £5.72 gallon of petrol. On average you drive 10,000 miles a year which gives the Government £1,047 in tax for your £1,736 spent! Considering there are 33 million cars on the road where does all this tax go?
The new bridge is needed, but this should be paid for by the taxes that are already raised specifically to pay for a road system. We need to end this mismanagement and paying £45 million A DAY to the corrupt European Union. We could then have the sensible transport system we deserve."
Mike Cooksley - Independent "Many more delays, further feasibility studies and consultants fees will probably mean that they only way that the crossing can be built and sustained is with the introduction of tolls."
Tom Reynolds - Independent "Yes, I'm in favour of tolls... If we want the bridge in the near future, we need to be able to fund it. Introducing tolls makes the project feasible. Peel has expressed an interest in bankrolling this project, in part, supported by public funding via the NWDA.
Maybe there is an alternative, looking beyond Peel., making the "bitter pill" of a toll, more acceptable. Set up a not-for-profit company issuing shares. About 50% of the current scheme cost requires private finance. Give priority to private households in the vicinity to purchase shares and benfit fom a dividend. The bridge will benefit industry tremendously, income from their tolls will increase dividends to the individual shareholders, thereby reducing their real-cost of using the crossing. Electronic administration minimises admin costs"
Colin Marsh - BNP "The major problem that is thrown up with this project is the introduction of tolls. I can understand the new bridge being tolled. But as for introducing a toll for the Siver Jubilee Bridge, when it's been free for goodness knows how long. It is an absolute disgrace.
The company building the Mersey Gateway bridge says introducing a toll on the Siver Jubilee bridge is a must. It also says that tolls will also help to reduce congestion by encouraging people to make more use of public transport. RUBBISH! I think that the public has a right to choose. Take a look at the M6 toll - you can choose to pay or use the existing stretch free of charge."
Howard Thorp - Green - was "unavailable for comment".
NATIONALLY what the main parties say on roads and links to their full manifestos.
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