I was unable to attend the Inquiry in person because I had committed to meetings with constituents on this day and so a representative read out a statement to the Inquiry on my behalf on Friday 11 November 2022.
Since the Manchester Ship Canal Company first proposed a change to the toll on the Warburton Bridge I have engaged with my constituents who will be affected by this change. On the basis of their comments, I have sent formal objections to the Inquiry and also to the former Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps MP.
I know that any changes to the toll at the Warburton Bridge will have significant consequences for the lives of many local residents.
The bridge is strategically significant as the only route across the River Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal between the M6 and M60. It is a vital link for many between local communities and a key route for travelling to work, to see family, to attend medical appointments and for many other local journeys.
I fully support my constituents in expressing outrage at the Manchester Ship Canal Company’s proposal to increase the maximum toll to £1 which is an 800% increase from the current maximum of 12.5p and then for yearly adjustments to be made in line with inflation minus 1%.
It is clear to me that the 800% increase to the toll charge imposed on my constituents, who live in the 19th most deprived local authority in the country, will have a detrimental effect on the costs of their essential travel. It will also affect the local businesses either side of the man-made Manchester Ship Canal, have an impact on the environment and it will increase congestion as people seek alternative routes.
The Manchester Ship Canal Company’s argument is that without the increase to the toll they would not be able to fund the £6.5 million repair and improvements to the Rixton and Warburton Bridge. This is absurd because the Manchester Ship Canal Company had an operating profit of £39.6 million in 2021 alone and its parent company, Peel Ports Group Limited had a group operating profit of £129.1m in 2021.
According to the Manchester Ship Canal Company’s own estimates nearly 4 million vehicles cross the bridge every year, netting the Manchester Ship Canal Company nearly £500,000. The proposed maximum increase to the toll would pay for over half of the improvement works in one year.
The current cost-of-living crisis is placing a heavy strain on household finances. Inflation is at a 40-year high and wages are not keeping pace. This additional charge is yet another financial pressure on local people at a time when many can least afford it.
While I welcome proposals to repair and modernise the bridge, I object strongly to any plans that would see the costs of this work being passed straight onto motorists through significant increases in toll charges.
On behalf of my constituents in Worsley and Eccles South I formally object to the proposals as set out in the Rixton and Warburton Bridge Transport and Works Act Order.
In previous submissions to the Inquiry I have included quotes from my constituents who will be affected by these proposed changes.
I believe that the owners of the Bridge should use the proceeds from the commercial operation of the Manchester Ship Canal and the existing toll charges which have been collected over time to carry out the required works. In doing so, all repairs and updates could then be achieved without the need for this punitive increased charge.