Toll cost row over £6.5m plan to upgrade Warburton Toll Bridge

Video report by Andy Bonner

Campaigners have started protesting about proposals to increase tolls on an important road transportation link.

It has cost 12p to travel across the Warburton Toll Bridge ever since the link opened nearly 160 years ago.

However, drivers could soon face a 740% increase - amid plans to raise tolls up to £1.

Protestors want the tolls scrapped altogether Credit: ITV Granada

Under the plans, the Manchester Ship Canal company says it would:

  • Install a free-flow tolling system, removing the need for toll booth collection and reducing delays.

  • Upgrade the approach roads to both sides of the bridge, covering both road surfaces and footpaths.

  • Fund a major capital investment programme to reverse physical decline of the Warburton Toll Bridge.

  • Introduce direct measures to control vehicle access including weight, height, width and speed, as well as obtaining powers to enforce restrictions.

The firm, which is owned by Peel Ports, says it would give discounts to local residents and frequent users.

Campaigners think the scheme is long overdue and say drivers should not have to foot the bill.

But Lewis McIntyre, Managing Director of Port Services, told ITV Granada Reports:

"The level of toll is not enough. The benefit of the bridge is to the users of the bridge, if it's not going to be funded by the local councils or the government then somebody needs to fund it."

Peel warned that despite any improvements a replacement bridge may eventually be needed.

It has factored in a reserve fund of up to nearly a third of the estimated £15 million cost in the proposed new toll.

The current toll of 12p was set in 1863. Credit: ITV Granada

The existence of a toll bridge crossing the River Mersey in Warburton dates back to 1863 when the construction of the Bridge was authorised by the Rixton & Warburton Bridge Act 1863. 

That original stone bridge spanned the River Mersey. 

The current bridge crosses the Manchester Ship Canal on the B5159 road, connecting the A57 with the A6144.

It remains the only non-motorway road bridge within 10 miles.

Before the pandemic, the bridge carried on average 9,500 vehicles each weekday, and 6,500 each day on the weekend.

Warrington's MPs, Conservative Andy Carter and Labour's Charlotte Nichols, have called for the bridge to be brought into council ownership and run "in the public interest".

Trafford Council said it supports plans for the upgrades but gave no comment on the MPs' suggestion.

A spokesperson for the Manchester Ship Canal Company said: "Suggestions raised by local residents and bridge users, for Local Highway Authorities or the government to take responsibility for the investment seem extremely unlikely, but if local or national governments wish to explore, this is still an option. Feedback from the relevant parties however suggest there is no appetite to take responsibility for the bridge and remove the toll charges.

"The new toll will provide the most sustainable way of funding the improvement required, as well as safeguard against future repair and maintenance work - no action is not a sustainable way forward."

Road users and members of the local community can comment on the plans until Friday August 20.

A formal process gets underway in Autumn.