AROUND 150 campaigners marched past Runcorn Town Hall on Sunday protesting over the bridge tolls.

Waving placards, workers joined forces with residents and families calling for the new charges to be abolished.

A petition with more than 21,000 signatures has been sent to Transport Minister Chris Grayling calling on the government to scrap the tolls.

Drivers now have to pay to cross the Mersey Gateway and will face the same levy when the Silver Jubilee bridge re-opens in 12 months.

Some self-employed family firms fear the tolls could drive them out of business.

People who live outside Halton have left work or are looking for new jobs because they say they can’t afford the additional costs of around £1,000 a year.

John McGoldrick, from Scrap Mersey Tolls, said: “Many people are already calling it the Dick Turpin bridge.

"The scheme is not a triumph or a gateway to hope, it is a gate to misery and a monument to the irrational decisions of local councils and both Labour and Conservative governments.

“The tolling of this crossing will not boost the economy. It will create an artificial barrier from Liverpool to Warrington and the area will become a no-go area discouraging visitors and new businesses.”

Widnes campaigner Karen Ford is calling for Transport Minister Chris Grayling to come to Halton to hear people’s concerns for himself.

“I sent the petition with 21,129 signatures and received a reply saying that once the debt is paid off in 30 years it will be free,” she said.

“We don’t want 30 years of hardship. Hundreds of people who live outside Halton are struggling to pay these tolls.

“This bridge is dividing the borough.

“We are already seeing companies adding on prices for deliveries and goods.

"It was amazing to see so many people turn out for this protest. The momentum is getting bigger as people realise the enormity of what is happening."