THOUSANDS of drivers are awaiting a landmark ruling over Mersey Gateway bridge tolls after Halton Council mounted a legal challenge to dispute the findings of a transport watchdog.

It follows the publication of an adjudication decision by the Traffic Penalty Tribunal (TPT) which quashed two fines imposed on a driver who protested over penalty charges.

The Traffic Penalty Tribunal (TPT) has ruled that a female motorist was not liable to pay the toll because Halton Council had not specified the charge in the Mersey Gateway Road User Charging Order 2017.

Adjudicator Andrew Barfoot said that appellant Ms C was not liable to pay the £2 toll because the order did not specify the charge contrary to requirements of the Transport Act 2000.

The watchdog claims the council had also failed to show it had published the £2 toll charges in the required two public notices.

Halton Council disputes the decision and a review application will be heard by a different adjudicator on May 8.

Some 456 appeals are now on hold as drivers speculate on social media about the implications of this landmark ruling.

A Halton Council spokesman said: “After taking independent legal advice the council and Mersey Gateway Crossings Board Ltd strongly dispute this decision.

“The council will rigorously dispute the adjudicator’s decision.

“Given this is a live case it is inappropriate to go into the detail. However, we are advised by our independent legal advisors that the current Road User Charging Scheme Order is legally sound.

“It’s business as usual on Mersey Gateway and motorists should continue to pay tolls. Those who fail to do so will still face the risk of a penalty notice.”

Runcorn MP Mike Amesbury said: “Legal challenges are ongoing so it is important not to speculate on the wider implications of this specific decision.

"Whilst recently announced variations to the original tolling approach are welcome, what we are certain about is that the biggest step towards complete abolition is for the government to keep the promise made by George Osborne three years ago.”

“The clearest solution to the problem of tolls lies not in the courts or Town Hall but in the Treasury and Downing Street.

“If tolls can be abolished on the Severn Bridge they can be abolished here and I’ll continue to remind the government of this at every single opportunity.”

John McGoldrick, from Scrap Mersey Tolls, said: “Halton Council and the other enthusiasts for tolling the Mersey seem to have got themselves into a jam and will no doubt fight tooth and claw to reverse the tribunal decision.

“Even if they do not get this decision reversed we fear that they will continue to collect the tolls and issue penalties and that they will not take any action to reimburse what it seems may have been taken by them illegally.

“For now we are not suggesting that drivers to do not pay the toll, but if they do receive receive a penalty charge notice, for any reason, they should fight it.

“And everyone should sign the Scrap Mersey tolls petition and press MPs and councillors on the issue.”