(page created 26 September 2018, last revised 4 July 2019)
No Tolls home page Main Mersey Gateway page PETITION on 38 Degrees Facebook group
MERSEY GATEWAY PENALTIES - WHAT YOU CAN DO
'Scrap Mersey Tolls' campaigns against the tolling of the old and new bridges between Runcorn and Widnes. The group also opposes Mersey Tunnels tolls. This page suggests what you can do to deal with Penalties on the Mersey Gateway, and includes links to other pages dealing with penalties.
On this page-
General Advice If You Are Being Chased For Tolls, Penalties And Costs
On other pages-
STAGE ONE - Making A Representation Online To Merseyflow
STAGE TWO - Making An Appeal Online To Traffic Penalty Tribunal
STAGE THREE - Traffic Enforcement Centre - Charge Certificates
STAGE FOUR - Traffic Enforcement Centre - Recovery Orders
STAGE FIVE - The Bailiffs
STAGE SIX - After The Bailiffs
Evidence For Representations And Appeals (On grounds of Procedural Impropriety)
Traffic Enforcement Centre (Apparent Illegal Use Of)
Our FULL GUIDE (May 2018)- 'Got a PCN from Merseyflow'(a pdf file). It covers the process from before you get a PCN up to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal and covers making representations in writing.
GENERAL ADVICE IF YOU ARE BEING CHASED FOR TOLLS, PENALTIES AND COSTS
DO NOT IGNORE ANYTHING THAT THEY SEND YOU. PAY UP OR FIGHT IT - IF YOU DO NOT THEN YOU WILL FALL INTO THE HANDS OF THE ENFORCERS.
Whatever stage of the process it is at, ACT QUICKLY, even if you either ignored or were unable to deal with previous stages of the process or did not receive earlier notices.
Be careful what you say on Facebook or other social media as you may say something which later makes it harder to fight penalties and costs.
This terrible system is the fault of the politicians, so contact your MP and councillor so that they can not say that they do not know what is going on. They may even help you!! And sign the PETITION.
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Paying tolls on a previously free crossing is bad enough, but to make it worse the politicians decided to have a penalty system which is inconveniencing many people and damaging their lives.
If you do not pay a toll for which Merseyflow think you are liable, then you will be sent a Penalty Charge Notice or PCN. For simplicity we usually refer to the 'driver' but it is not the driver who is liable to pay the toll, it is the registered keeper of the vehicle. The driver is only liable if the vehicle is hired or is a company car.
The PCNs are often referred to as 'fines' and they have been handing them out like confetti with 1,228,000 issued up to March 2019 (less than 18 months after the bridge opened).
If you cross without paying on time - or they claim that happened - usually Merseyflow will issue the PCN within two weeks, but you may have a long wait for the PCN as national politicians did not set any deadline for this. For a period Merseyflow even issued some PCNs twice!
The PCN will demand payment of the toll plus a penalty of £40 for each unpaid crossing. The penalty is reduced to £20 if you pay within 14 days.
We believe that the tolls and penalties do not comply with the law and are not enforceable. We suggest that as soon as possible after you receive the PCN, instead of paying them the £22 or £42 per crossing, you make a 'representation'. You can do this whatever your grounds and whether you have any evidence or not.
We realise that it is a pain and you may decide not to bother or may fear the risk of
losing. That is what Halton Council and Merseyflow rely on- that you will pay them the penalty to get it out of the way until the next time that you are stung.
So far (up to June 2019) EVERYONE WHO HAS MADE A REPRESENTATION AND STUCK TO IT HAS NOT HAD TO PAY THE PENALTY. Either Merseyflow have dropped chasing the penalty, or if not and the PCN has been appealed to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal, then the Tribunal have so far always allowed the appeal.
There will be various reasons why people do not deal with letters from Merseyflow.
The letters may go to the wrong address.
They may be opened by someone who does not pass the letter on to the correct person.
The person they are addressed to may be away from home for a long period due to work, holiday, detention or visiting.
The person may be physically ill or have a mental condition that makes it difficult for them to deal with demanding letters from Merseyflow.
The person may have difficulty with mobility, hearing or sight.
They may not be able to read.
They may not understand English.
They may have neither access to or experience with the Internet, without which it is difficult to deal with Merseyflow.
They may be overwhelmed by the amount of correspondence.
They may have tried to sort things out with Merseyflow but got no sensible answers from them.
They may even be using the crossing and deliberately not paying.
Whatever the reason for not dealing with the letters, the results are horrendous.
The total amount demanded for just one allegedly unpaid £2 toll could be as much as £490.
PCN stage- An unpaid toll or a toll paid late, results in a letter demanding payment of the tolls plus a penalty of £20, which increases to £40 if not paid within 14 days.
Charge Certificate stage- If the PCN letter is ignored or not received or the person fails in any attempt to deal with it then a charge certificate is issued. The amount demanded as a penalty charge for each crossing now increases to £60 plus any unpaid toll.
Recovery Order stage- If the charge certificate is ignored or not received or the person fails in any attempt to deal with it then a Recovery Order (TE3) is issued. £8 is added for a 'Court registration fee' and the amount demanded for each crossing is now £68 plus any unpaid toll.
Notice of Enforcement stage- If the Recovery Order is ignored or not received or the person fails in any attempt to deal with it then a Notice of Enforcement is issued. £75 is added as a 'Compliance Stage fee' and the amount demanded for each crossing is now £143 plus any unpaid toll.
Warrant of Control stage- If the Notice of Enforcement is ignored or not received or the person fails in any attempt to deal with it then a Warrant of Control is issued. The amount demanded for each crossing is still £143 plus the unpaid toll.
But on top of that there is now an additional 'fee' of £235 if there is a visit by the 'enforcement agent' plus a further 'fee' of £110 if they seize any of your belongings. So the total amount demanded for just one crossing could be as much as £488 plus any unpaid toll.
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We believe that the tolls are illegal and so is the enforcement. The legality of the tolls was one of the issues raised by the National Alliance Against Tolls at the Public Inquiry in 2009.
The issue of the illegality of the method of enforcement is more recent as originally there were to be tolls booths and no need for any enforcement procedures.
The illegality does NOT mean that you should not pay the tolls or that if they chase you for payment of tolls and penalties that you can ignore them. The establishment will apply the rules as if it was all legal.
The enforcement procedures include provision for drivers to appeal against penalties to a body called the Traffic Penalty Tribunal. On Friday 6th April 2018 the Tribunal issued a statement which revealed that on 16th February an adjudicator had in effect found that the tolls were not enforceable because of 'procedural improprieties'. This followed an appeal made on 30th December 2017 by a 'Miss C'.
The eight page Tribunal decision gave two main reasons why the adjudicator considered that the tolls were illegal.
One was that proper notice was not given of when the tolls would start.
The other reason was that the 'Road User Charging Scheme Order' did not specify what the toll was, instead it specified a range of tolls with the Council free to say what the toll was within the range. The adjudicator ruled that this way of specifying the toll did not comply with the national regulations.
The Tribunal issued 'directions' on 12th January 2018 and made their formal decision on 16th February. It was not clear why the Tribunal then waited nearly seven weeks before making public their unprecedented decision.
On 8th March, three weeks after the Tribunal decision - but four weeks before that decision was made public, the Council launched a consultation on "Proposed changes to Road User Charging Scheme Order". The Council said that the purpose of the new order was to make changes "which could see even more users receive unlimited travel across the Mersey Gateway Bridge". This was a deceit by the Council as the proposed changes were trivial and would affect almost no one. The true purpose of the Order was to try and comply with what the adjudicator had said about specifying toll levels.
On 18th April 2018 the Council rushed through a new Tolls Order in an attempt to correct some of the errors that had been found by the Tribunal. It emerged that as well as what was in the adjudicator's decision, the Tribunal had also pointed out other errors in the Tolls Order. In the event the passing of the new Order was confused and broke the law for conduct of Council business.
Whether the new tolls Order was valid or not initially made no difference, as the Council did not bother to correct the wording on the Penalty Charge Notices for a month.
Halton Council asked the Tribunal to review their decision and there was a hearing on Tuesday 8th May 2018 in Halton. The adjudicator's 23 page decision was released on 18th May. It confirmed that tolls on the new Mersey 'Gateway' bridge are illegal.
This statement was made by "a spokesperson for the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board"-
"We are disappointed by this decision. We will now take time to review today's decision with our external legal advisors and consider our next steps. Since 19th April 2018 a new Charging Order has been in place. This new Charging Order now regulates the tolling on Mersey Gateway and it's really important that everyone who uses the crossing pays their toll charge to avoid the risk of getting a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN)."
We encouraged people to demand refunds of what they had paid in tolls or penalties. But on 13th July another statement was issued by the Crossings Board saying that the Council were "under no legal obligation to repay any toll or penalty paid on failing to pay a toll. Consequently, Halton Council will not be repaying any toll or penalty paid on failing to pay a toll."
For various reasons we thought that the tolls were still not enforceable, despite the new Charging Order made on the 19th April and the new wording on PCNs from mid May. In any case there was a new element. Damian Curzon from Widnes decided to challenge the system. As a Halton resident he was in the Local User Discount Scheme and so did not have to pay tolls. In order to challenge the system he left the LUDS and made two crossings on 7th June 2018. This resulted in PCNs, Statutory representations and an appeal at the beginning of August to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal. Merseyflow usually did not oppose appeals if they thought that there was a danger of the legal issues being looked at, but they somehow failed to pick up that Damian had legal training.
There was then a very protracted period were both sides made submissions and counter submissions to the Tribunal. The Chief Adjudicator was originally in charge of the appeal, but she stepped down because the Merseyflow side alleged that before the bridge opened she had supported the signage that was to be used. It was over seven months before a decision was made. Given that the whole operation is illegal, this protracted process only serves the interests of the establishment.
It was not till 11th March 2019 that the Tribunal issued a Statement on their eventual decision They said that "The appeals were allowed due to procedural improprieties.." In other words despite the changes made by Halton Council and Merseyflow following the test case a year earlier - the tolls were still not enforceable - AND NEVER HAVE BEEN.
The Adjudicator's decision of 11th March 2019.
Halton Council immediately issued a statement saying that they would ignore the decision - "It's business as usual at the Mersey Gateway" statement by the Council.
The day following the decision, Scrap Mersey Tolls wrote to the councillors asking them to suspend recovery action our letter.
Their reply was almost identical to their press statement "The Council is aware of the Traffic Penalty Tribunal adjudicator’s decision...The decision is currently being reviewed by the Council... It's business as usual..."
"...The main part of your reply just reiterates what was in the statement that the Council made yesterday. A statement that we were of course aware of as our letter included a link to it. As was said in our letter to the councillors the claim in the statement that the Adjudicator's decision does not affect other cases is nonsense.
Our group is of course fundamentally opposed to tolling but the decision not to have toll booths and instead to use (in my view illegally) the Road User Charge provisions made a bad situation far worse. You and others at the Council will not see the heart rending messages that I get, mainly from people who were not aware of our group and our advice until they fell into the clutches of the "debt" enforcement officers.
You and the councillors will be getting some of the flak and have at least some idea of the monster that the Council brought into being. Yet whenever I visit the Mersey Gateway site what do I see but a picture of a smiling Councillor Polhill with the Queen who the Council somehow persuaded to come and give official approval to this terrible scheme. Superimposed on that image is the Merseyflow message "to pay your toll...".
Despite what the Council are saying in public we would hope that behind the scenes the Council are trying to resolve this situation. And by resolving it I do not mean the Council wasting more money on lawyers. I mean doing something to end the tolls or a least to end the penalty system. As you will know I believe that the bridge was built in the wrong place. Now that it is there it could be an asset to Halton but it will only be a liability for Halton's image and businesses while you have tolls on it."
Anyway, the Crossing Board applied for a review of the 11th March decision. In effect they asked for leave to appeal. The Tribunal took a while to reply. It was not till the 17th May that they gave their answer - they turned down the request.
TPT statement of 17th May 2019.
The full decision dated 15th May 2019.
A spokeswoman for Halton council came out with the usual nonsense "..In this respect following a review by Mersey Gateway Crossings Board, the grounds of appeal relied on in this particular case are no longer available."
We issued our own statement-
"Scrap Mersey Tolls did not fear any review of the TPT decision as we believed that there was an unshakable case that the penalties are not enforcible. But now there is not to be a review, it highlights that Halton Council and its allies are ignoring the fact that the penalties are not enforceable. Merseyflow continue to go on the rampage persecuting drivers for thousands of pounds in penalties that the Council know are not enforceable. This is causing increasing aggravation with people being frightened by demands, court documents, 'final notices' and visits from enforcement officers. We have been inundated with people asking for advice...
"The scandal of the enforcement may run deeper as we believe that those involved have ignored the rules that apply to the use of the Traffic Enforcement Centre at Northampton County Court. We have raised our concerns with the court. They have not only ignored our concerns, they have in the last week actually made the situation even worse by starting to refuse 'out of time' applications, even though people have given valid reasons. All those involved are behaving as if the Mersey Gateway was a Mafia enterprise protected by the umbrella of the court.
"We have detailed our concerns to various people including the chair of the Justice Committee but were told that they could not get involved. We have even written to the Justice Secretary, who so far has not replied. Given what seems to be a total disregard for the law and the indifference of politicians to the situation, we will be sharing our concerns about the TEC with the wider public in the near future.
Whatever comes of that, what will it take for someone to rein in Merseyflow, and scrap both the illegal penalty system and the tolls?"
This still does not yet mean that you need not pay the tolls or that if they chase you for payment of tolls and penalties that you can ignore them. There is still a risk that either the Tribunal changes its mind at some point or that the Decision is overruled by another court (though it seems most unlikely that the Council / Crossing Board / Merseyflow will want to go to court as it will make it more difficult to hide the truth.
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The group has issued various press releases (the main ones that deal mainly with penalties are listed below) to over thirty press contacts. As well as press releases we have sent a lot of messages to individual journalists about the terrible effect that tolls are having. All of this is largely ignored as no one seems to want to upset the local politicians-
PR on 4th March 2019 - Drivers Who Miss Paying Mersey Gateway Tolls Face Massive Demand
PR on 13th February 2019 - Mersey Gateway Tolls Blitz On Drivers
PR on 4th, 6th December 2018 - One Million Penalties
PR on 25th July 2018 - Latest Penalty Figures For Mersey Gateway.
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Your local MP (for contacting or copying complaints to)
You can find out who your MP is and their email address at this site.
Phone- 01928 878 878
Post- Merseyflow, PO BOX 327, Runcorn, WA7 9DW
Walk in centre- Howard Court, Manor Park, Runcorn, WA7 1SJ
Website - Merseyflow.
Traffic Penalty Tribunal
Phone- 0800 160 1999
Post- Traffic Penalty Tribunal, Springfield House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5BG
Website - Traffic Penalty Tribunal.
Traffic Enforcement Centre (part of Northampton County Court)
Phone- 0300 123 1059
Post- Traffic Enforcement Centre, St Katharine's House, 21-27 St Katharine's Street, Northampton, NN1 2LH
Website - NONE
TEC forms -
Download TE9 forms - Witness statement for unpaid penalty charge.
Download TE7 forms - Application to file a statement out of time.
Marston (the bailiffs)
We recommend that as far as possible you do NOT contact Marston.
If you do then they will probably badger you and try to get you to agree to pay (possibly over a few months). It also means that they will then have your phone number and email and may pester you.
Phone- 0333 320 1822
Post- Marston Group Limited, PO Box 12019, Epping, CM16 9EB
Web form - Marston.
How to complain to Marston - Marston complaints.
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