The floodgates may be about to open for a number of appeals regarding payment of the Mersey Gateway Bridge toll after the Traffic Penalty Tribunal (TPT) recently ruled that such charges may in fact not be legally binding.
The Mersey Gateway Bridge (Bridge) opened in October 2017 and the single tolls to cross it are currently £2 for cars, £6 for a small lorry and £8 for a larger lorry or coach. It is understood that around 10 million vehicles have crossed the Bridge since it opened and 250,000 penalty charge notices have been issued to those who have failed to pay the toll.
On 6 April 2018, the TPT published an adjudication decision finding a motorist (known as “C”) not liable to pay the £2 charge. The reasoning behind this was apparently because Halton Borough Council (Council) had not been specific about the price of the toll and had not actually stipulated the sum in the Mersey Gateway Road User Charging Scheme Order 2017 (Order). Furthermore, the Council had failed to publish a notice in at least one newspaper circulating in Halton, a procedural requirement in addition to publishing one in the London Gazette (which it did). The TPT found that as a consequence of this, the toll did not comply with the Transport Act 2000 and two fines C received were quashed.
C had challenged the fines because she had to cross back over the bridge due to losing her way, meaning two round-trips (comprising three journeys rather than four). However, the TPT also chose to consider the legal basis of C being charged the tolls at all.
The Council apparently rejects the findings and plans to rigorously dispute the decision. It apparently believes the Order to be legally sound and urges motorists to continue to pay the tolls to use the Bridge or risk a penalty notice. However, despite this, it is understood that the Order is likely to be updated to make charges clearer. It is also now being claimed that the Council failed to give correct notice of charges on the £600m Runcorn to Widnes crossing as well.
The TPT is said to be conducting a case review of the case C v Halton Borough Council on 8 May 2018 and in anticipation of this, has put 456 appeals on hold pending the outcome.
Ian Jones, Solicitor and Director at Backhouse Jones commented:
“There was a consultation on amending the Mersey Gateway Road User Charging Scheme Order 2017 recently and we anticipate that closing this loophole will be top of the list of the amendments to that Order. In terms of the impact on those in the transport sector in the meantime, we expect that more will be revealed once the review has taken place on 8 May 2018.”
Backhouse Jones specialise in transport law and advising those in the transport sector. If you would like to discuss this or any transport related matter further, please contact a member of the regulatory team at Backhouse Jones on 01254 828300 or email us at email@example.com.