Halton residents say 300 free journeys over new bridge is not enough (From Runcorn and Widnes World)
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Fight for all journeys over Halton's new bridge to be free for local residents
PLANS to offer 300 free journeys a year over the new Mersey Gateway Bridge and the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge to anyone living in Halton have caused outrage.
Incensed residents blasted the scheme as being inadequate for people who cross the River Mersey daily to work, shop, study, attend hospital appointments or visit family and friends.
Halton councillors are inviting residents to register for £10 a year for the free trips. Other drivers face a £2 toll each way.
Lorraine Spencer said: “Me and my husband both have to cross the bridge to work and it’s going to cost us £500 just to get there and back.”
Steve Westhead said: “People will be disadvantaged. It’s discrimination and a disgrace that corporate greed is put before the interests of residents of Halton.”
Kevin O’Brien said: “Why should you pay anything to travel around your own borough?”
Jamie O’Connor said: “It’s a free road and shouldn’t be tolled.”
Halton Council leader Clr Rob Polhill said: “We have always been against tolls and have fought hard to get a residents’ discount.
“We feel it is wrong for people to pay to cross their own borough but the Government has said no tolls, no bridge.
“We desperately need a new crossing.
“To make it totally free for all Halton residents the project would need up to £8 million a year extra from Government.
“It’s great to have a new bridge but marred by the fact that local people have to pay. We will continue to lobby to get a better deal for residents.”
Halton MP Derek Twigg has secured a meeting with Chancellor George Osborne and MPs from Cheshire and Merseyside to improve the local residents’ scheme.
Mr Twigg said: “It’s got to be free for local people. The Government has dropped plans to charge a toll on the A41 in Cambridgeshire because it is an existing road. That is the same case for the A533 across the bridge.
“I am going to continue to keep the pressure up.”
Construction of the new six-lane Mersey Gateway is due to start in 2014 and open three years later.
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