The information campaign to let local residents, commuters and businesses know how the tolling system for the Mersey Gateway Project will work is being launched today (Tuesday 28 February). It includes the unveiling of the merseyflow brand and a new website – www.merseyflow.co.uk and a series of animations – which will guide people through the process.
Both the new bridge and the Silver Jubilee Bridge will be tolled from autumn 2017. There will be no toll booths – so no need to stop as you cross the river – making everyone’s journey, quicker, easier and more reliable.
Instead merseyflow will use automatic number plate reading technology and registered users will also get a special sticker to attach to the windscreen of their registered vehicle. This will enable merseyflow to identify users as they cross the river. This means that everyone who crosses the river in Halton, wherever they live, will need to register through merseyflow.co.uk from summer 2017 to get the best discount deal that suits them. Whilst registration will not open until this summer, merseyflow.co.uk is now up and running and is the key website for all tolling information in relation to both bridges.
There is free travel for eligible Halton residents and blue badge holders once they have paid a small fee, but everyone who qualifies will need to register to get this discount. Regular users of the bridges, wherever they live, will have access to other discount options, but must register with merseyflow to access these savings. Drivers of cars or small vans will be able to buy a monthly pass that will cap their monthly costs and offer unlimited travel across the river in Halton.
The information is being published now to ensure that everyone who will use the new bridge has an opportunity to look at it and understand which approach is best for them. Merseyflow is also setting up a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and will be working closely with Halton Borough Council and the construction team to spread the message about tolling.
When registration opens this summer there will also be a local walk-in centre and a team available by phone to answer queries about the registration and payment process.
David Parr, Chief Executive of Halton Borough Council, said: “We’ve worked closely with the tolling team to set up the merseyflow system and make sure that people have plenty of time to work out the best approach for them before registration opens at merseyflow.co.uk later this year.”
He added: “This is just the start of sharing information on how to register with merseyflow, so our message to anyone who isn’t sure how this will all work, is don’t worry. The best thing to do is look at the information at merseyflow.co.uk and they will see what the best option is for them.”
Anthony Alicastro, Managing Director of merseyflow, said: “For the vast majority of people, registering with merseyflow will be the best way to get the best discount on the tolls. Tolling registration will not open until summer but merseyflow.co.uk already contains a huge amount of information.
He added: “After they have registered with merseyflow and paid a small annual administration fee, the vast majority of Halton residents will be eligible for free travel across both the Mersey Gateway Bridge and Silver Jubilee Bridge.
“People living outside of Halton who drive a small car or a van will have two options to reduce the cost of the toll; registering for a pre-pay merseyflow account, which will save up to 10% on the cost of each trip, or registering for a monthly pass, which will cap the cost of travel.”
Some of the leading businesses and business figures in the area have backed the positive impact of the project on the region’s economy. Recent figures show that Halton’s economy is outperforming England’s in terms of employment rate, the increase in the number of businesses and the level of average pay. Richard Butcher, Executive Director with Stobart Group, said: “As a business Stobart Group has invested heavily in developing our presence in Halton over recent years and the Mersey Gateway Project has been a major factor behind that decision.”
He added: “Stobart Group now employs 146 people at our base in Widnes and we’ve always been clear that the benefits that the new bridge will bring in terms of quicker, easier and more reliable journeys will be a positive boost for the economy in the region. We’re looking forward to the new bridge opening later this year and it’s good to see the details of the tolling arrangements being shared at this early stage.”
Paula Cain, Chief Executive at Halton Chamber of Commerce, said: “The Mersey Gateway project and forthcoming refurbishment of the Silver Jubilee Bridge have helped put Halton on the map. The project sends out a clear signal that we’re growing as a successful area in which to invest, and develop your business.
“It’s important business owners review the tolling options available to them to find out what works best. Halton Chamber of Commerce is working closely with its members to help them prepare for the introduction of tolls when the bridge opens this autumn.”
Carol Thomas, Finance Director at SOG Group – the owner and operator of The Heath Business and Technical Park in Runcorn, said: “We’ve seen a lot of interest in businesses coming into The Heath from outside of the local area in recent times and the new bridge and the wider investment associated with it is playing a major part in that. As a local business we know that tolls are part of the package but the new bridge will make getting to and moving around Halton a lot easier.”
Construction work on the Mersey Gateway Bridge and connecting roads will continue until the autumn of 2017. Once the new bridge opens, the Silver Jubilee Bridge will close for around 12 months for repairs and improvements to further improve journeys.
The merseyflow tolling system will be operated by emovis, a global leader in tolling solutions, and which successfully operates similar schemes in the UK, Canada and Ireland.