Warburton Toll Bridge: Safety row over reintroduction of 12p charge

Warburton Toll Bridge booth Image copyright Google
Image caption The bridge toll is usually 12p for any vehicle, with drivers able to pay 25p for a day pass

A company's decision to reintroduce a bridge's 12p toll, which was suspended due to the coronavirus lockdown, has sparked a row over public safety.

Peel Ports stopped tolls at Warburton Toll Bridge, which straddles Manchester Ship Canal, in March but said it had reinstated them for southbound drivers.

It said the "one-way system" would mean one person could operate its booth.

However, two local councillors said they had concerns about "social distancing between staff and drivers".

Lymm North and Thelwall councillors Ian Marks and Bob Barr told the Local Democracy Reporting Service said Peel Ports should have waited until the pandemic was "less virulent" before bringing the tolls back.

"We were very pleased when Peel did the right thing and withdrew the tolls," they said in a joint statement.

"But we are not happy that they have reintroduced them at this stage.

"We have no doubt that they have done this following guidance from the experts, but that doesn't mean they had to make the change now."

They said there were "two main issues", the "social distancing between staff and drivers" and "the touching of coins, because change will often have to be given".

"Staff may be wearing gloves but the public won't be," they added.

Image copyright Colin Park/Geograph
Image caption The bridge straddles Manchester Ship Canal and links Greater Manchester with Cheshire

Peel Ports said it had been "liaising closely with our contractors on site and have put new measures in place" to ensure it adhered to social distancing guidelines.

A spokesman said its new safety measures included only paying on entry from the southbound side of the bridge, the introduction of a collection box and a postponement of the reintroduction of day tickets.

He said the measures would "enable us to operate the booth with just one member of staff", who would be issued with PPE and a hand sanitiser.

The 12p toll has been the subject of a campaign by local residents, who have previously prepaid tolls in bulk to stop congestion forming in the area.

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