It is Government policy that those who benefit from the significant improvements that estuarial crossings bring should help to pay for them. Successive Governments have taken the view that tolls are justified when private finance enables key road infrastructure such as significant river crossings to proceed and to be maintained.
I am sure that the Minister will be aware that residents in my constituency are paying in excess of £1,000 a year in toll charges for the new Mersey Gateway bridge, although the previous Runcorn bridge was toll-free and tolls are being scrapped across the whole United Kingdom. Will he honour the commitment made in 2015 by the former Chancellor, George Osborne, that Warrington residents would be exempt from these tolls? Although the Minister has previously rejected this offer, will he now agree to meet me and my constituents?
I am not aware of having rejected any previous invitation. I would be delighted to meet the hon. Gentleman and his constituents. The Government’s position is very clear. We intend that the tolls will go when the bridge has been paid for. Unfortunately, when crossings are being tolled, there has to be equality, because otherwise the untolled bridge ends up being loaded up to the point where the original purpose is defeated. The good news is that this is a major piece of new infrastructure, and that is all to the good.