HALTON firms fear the tolls could drive some companies out of business - but without tolls we could not have a new crossing.We have been talking to employers and workers who cross the bridge several times a day about the impact the charges could have on their livelihoods.
A RUNCORN nurse fears she may have to find another job because she can’t afford the tolls.
Mum-of-two Jo Brown works on a hyper acute ward at Whiston Hospital.
Jo from Norton Cross, said: “I cross this bridge two or three times a day. I am a stroke nurse in a specialist unit where we offer 24-hour stroke services. I can get called in at any time.
“I absolutely love my job. The trust has put so much money into my education.
“Tolling this bridge will have huge financial implications on me and my family.”
Her husband, Gary, aged 42, is a taxi-driver and has been told he can add the toll to his fare but will have to foot the bill for the return journey.
Jo added: “Gary puts £200 a week fuel in his car and I can put £80 a week. Trying to pay the bills, the tolls will cost me too much money.
“I have thought about double shifts but your family would suffer.
“I feel like I am being penalised. I only cross the bridge to get to my job. It is shocking that Halton residents will be charged to cross this bridge.
“Hundreds of people who work in Whiston and live in Runcorn will struggle with these tolls.”
A WIDNES motor parts distribution business which has a fleet of delivery vans is worried about the impact of the tolls.
Graeme Cain, who owns the Witt Road company with his brother, Warwick, said: “We have six vehicles which cross the bridge to Runcorn, Frodsham and Northwich. Each van does around 12 trips a day.
“We also have sales reps who cross the bridge to see customers.
“My rough calculation is that it will cost us around £7,000 a year, using the £90 per vehicle per month tariff for unlimited use.
“It is unlikely we could increase our prices because competitors on the other side of the river don’t have that cost.”
His company employs 23 people and serves around 200 garages within 10-15 miles from Widnes.
Mr Cain added: “The tolls will have a massive impact on businesses. They are offering a slight reduction for off-peak use from 10am to 4pm but that is no good for us.
“It is a concern. I am delivering goods to people which is my living.”
DRIVING instructors who cross the bridge countless times every day fear the tolls pose a serious threat to their livelihoods.
They face a £90 a month tariff charge per vehicle.
They say the cost of driving lessons will rise to cover the new charges and many are already looking for a new job.
Widnes driving instructor Graham Cain from Farnworth, and chairman of Halton Driving Instructors Association, said “Many Runcorn instructors say they will no longer drive over the bridge which means the Widnes test centre could close.
“Widnes learners would have to go to St Helens for their tests and people in Runcorn would have to travel to Northwich. This would mean double lessons so that learners could get to know the test routes.
“It would cost an absolute fortune.”
The driving instructors are mounting a petition to ask for Halton businesses to be given a concession.
Mr Cain added: “A third of my work is in Runcorn.
“On a safety point, we need to take learner drivers over the bridge to show them how to drive correctly, which lane to be in and how to approach junctions.
“Large companies may be able to absorb these costs but smaller ones like ourselves definitely can't.”
A RUNCORN family coach firm set up in 1985 fears they could lose contracts across the river.
Richard Bamber, partner at Anthony’s Travel of Cormorant Drive, said: “The tolls will have a major effect on local businesses.
“Coaches are being charged £6 for each trip across the bridge.
“Any contracts on the Widnes side of the water will immediately put me at a disadvantage. I have a number of school hires. We take Widnes schools swimming to Brookvale.
“Schools are on very tight budgets and can’t afford any increases. It means we won’t be as competitive.
“We’ll see an influx of companies from outside the borough.
“I think they should reduce the rates for Halton businesses.”
He believes the tolls could split the borough.
He added: “We’ve got shared community facilities like the Halton Stadium and The Brindley. People from each side of the river might think twice about attending events there when they have to add on the cost of tolls to their tickets.
“It is going to divide Runcorn and Widnes.”
TAXI drivers say the tolls could divide the borough.
Stephen Bond, owner of Halton Taxis in Victoria Road, Widnes, said: “Nobody knows yet how it will work. Everyone is worried.
“It will split the borough completely.
“Runcorn drivers won’t want to come over to Widnes. All drivers will lose income.
“We will have to charge the toll. We have to pass on the charge to customers which is not nice but what other borough in the country is split in half by a toll bridge?”
Mr Bond has 70 drivers.
He added: “This will be detrimental to everyone. A few people are talking about changing jobs and moving house because of the toll costs.
“It is going to cut down the amount of traffic that crosses the bridge. A lot of people will reduce their journeys and only drive over if they have to.
“It is a big concern and worry for us.”