MORE than 35,000 penalty charge notices have been issued to drivers who failed to pay tolls on the Mersey Gateway, the World can exclusively reveal.

Latest statistics show that 1,712,934 vehicles have crossed the new bridge since it opened four weeks ago.

More than 97 per cent of these drivers have registered their vehicles with Merseyflow or paid for their tolls before the payment deadline.

Fines of £40 were sent to motorists in the first 27 days since the bridge opened.

However, some Halton residents, who are eligible for free tolls, say they have mistakenly received fines because their registration details were recorded incorrectly by administration staff.

Workers travelling from outside the borough who experienced difficulties trying to pay tolls also claim they have been unjustly penalised.

Incensed drivers who have complained to merseyflow have been advised the only way to appeal to penalties is in writing.

Karl Llorca, from Halton Brook, in Runcorn, was shocked to receive a fine of almost £1,000.

He changed his vehicle but says staff incorrectly registered him as a driver from outside the borough.

His dad John, from Beechwood, said: “The day before he took his disabled sister to Florida, Karl had to find paperwork and documentation to verify out the mistake.

“Their attitude that you are guilty until you can prove innocence is wrong.”

Joe Bell from the Kvernekland Group in St Helens says he and his employees tried to pay tolls but the system wasn’t working.

A Merseyflow spokesman said: “Over 200,000 people have paid for journeys or registered online so the website is working effectively.

“But if anyone has encountered any difficulties, we’re very sorry to hear that.

“We’d be keen to hear the details of their problems so we can continue to improve the service.

“We take complaints very seriously and have a formal complaints system where anyone can raise any issued they have and we will respond within three days.

“We’ve had a lot of people ringing our call centre about penalty charge notices (PCN) but the call centre team cannot stop the PCN process or deal with any representations so the best thing to do is to make a representation in writing.”