Liverpool

Mersey Gateway bridge tolls will not be refunded

Mersey Gateway Image copyright Mersey Gateway
Image caption The bridge was opened in October 2017 and its tolls were updated in April 2018

Drivers who appealed against "illegal" bridge tolls will not be refunded after an ombudsman's ruling.

An unnamed man complained to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) after his partner was fined for not paying tolls after crossing the Mersey Gateway.

A Traffic Penalty Tribunal (TPT) ruling in 2018 cast doubt on the legality of millions of bridge tolls and fines.

However, the LGO dismissed his case, saying any errors in the charging order "did not lead to injustice".

The bridge's operators, Halton Borough Council, welcomed the ruling.

The partner of the man, referred to as Mr B in the LGO report, was issued with two penalty charge notices after failing to pay the £2 toll on the Runcorn to Widnes crossing before an order controlling the tolls on the bridge was changed in April 2018.

That month, the TPT found a driver was not liable to pay the £2 toll as Halton Borough Council had not specified the fee correctly, leading a lawyer to claim millions of toll payments may have to be refunded.

The ruling led to the council clarifying the order which governs the bridge tolls.

However, as a result of the TPT ruling, Mr B entered a complaint with the LGO over his partner's fines, which he believed should be refunded.

'Clearly a toll bridge'

In its report, the LGO said it had decided to investigate his complaint to "look at apparent injustice to the much larger group of people potentially affected".

However, it said "any procedural errors there may have been in the original order did not lead to injustice".

The LGO was "satisfied therefore that if the apparent fault had not occurred, there would in any case have been a valid order in place".

The spokesman added: "We are satisfied that they would not, and have therefore been caused no injustice."

Welcoming the decision that there was "no finding of maladministration", a Halton Borough Council spokesman said the TPT ruling "cannot, in law, invalidate or remove the powers in place" since the bridge opened in October 2017.

However, anti-toll campaigners Scrap Mersey Tolls said they would continue to fight against the "illegal" enforcements, adding that it was "long past time that our politicians put a stop to this tolls monster that is causing so much aggravation and nuisance".

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