MERSEY Gateway bosses are being asked to waive bridge tolls over Christmas.

Runcorn MP Mike Amesbury fears many friends, family and visitors of residents may be caught unawares and fined over Christmas.

The Weaver Vale MP says it would be a welcome gesture of goodwill during the festive season.

Mr Amesbury said: “Under current plans, thousands of Christmas visitors to our region will have to spend precious time on Christmas Day on phones or computers paying tolls.

“I also fear that people from outside the immediate area will be using the new system for the first time when they visit friends and family and may not be aware of the tolls – meaning an unwelcome Christmas present of a £40 fine.”

Mr Amesbury has written to David Parr, chief executive of the Mersey Gateway Board requesting tolls to be waived on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that the Dartford Crossing, also operated by Mersey Gateway tolling company Emovis issued almost 17,000 fines from 24-26 December 24-26 in the first year of automatic number plate recognition operation.

This is above the average of just under 4,000 per day.

Mr Amesbury fears a hike in fines is likely in Halton over the festive season unless tolls are waived.

“Figures from similar crossings elsewhere suggest this is a real risk – so I very much hope we can avoid doing the same here,” he said.

“The most simple and effective way to do this is to waive the fees for a defined period over Christmas.

“Whilst I welcome the access to the Local User Discount scheme for the majority of my constituents in Halton – that isn’t something that is available to residents in Cheshire West and Chester, despite previous pledges from the government.

“A Christmas suspension would benefit not just those who don’t currently have free travel but also the friends and family of those who do.

“I’m warned that there are legal, commercial and governmental issues to be considered, but I hope these can be overcome if the will is there.

“Figures so far seem to suggest that the bridge has been a big success, so I do hope commercial interests can afford to give up a small amount of profit at such a special time – and I have already been in touch with ministers to ask them not to stand in the way of what would be a very welcome gesture.

“The Mersey Tunnels are free on Christmas Day – so I refuse to believe that these problems are insurmountable.”

A spokesman from the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board Limited said: “Tolls on the Mersey Gateway bridge will remain in force over the Christmas period.

“The current tolling regime does not make provision for the removal of tolls over the festive period.

“We would encourage users to make sure they have sufficient money in their registered accounts for journeys taken over this time and for unregistered users to pay in advance for their crossings.”