The Mersey Gateway tolls have come under fire once again after a cheaper and bigger bridge opened in Scotland which motorists can cross for free.
Campaigner John McGoldrick, from Scrap The Mersey Tolls, said Scottish drivers were being treated 'vastly different' to motorists in Cheshire and Merseyside.
Protesters are blaming politicians for 'splitting the region in two' through a tolled stretch of river between Liverpool and Warrington, and are calling on drivers and politicians to lodge their complaints, reports the Liverpool Echo.
Mr McGoldrick’s comments came after the £1.35bn Queensferry Crossing opened in Scotland, which is not only bigger than the Mersey Gateway but £500m cheaper.
Nor will anyone crossing the bridge, over the Firth Of Forth near Edinburgh, have to pay a toll to cross.
Campaigners said this contrasts against the situation on the £1.86bn Mersey Gateway between Runcorn and Widnes where the standard charge to cross for a car will be £2 under threat of a £40 fine, with the cost rising for larger vehicles.
Tolls will come into force on the Silver Jubilee Bridge when it re-opens after up to a year of closure for major maintenance works and for its road configuration to be reduced to two lanes to create more room for bicycles and pedestrians.
Bridge backers have claimed motorists will save cash as they will spend less cash on fuel stuck in traffic jams.
Mr McGoldrick branded the tolls a ‘scandal’.
He said: “The early opening of the new Mersey bridge will not be a cause for celebration and contrasts sharply with what is happening with the Forth crossing in Scotland and with the Severn crossing into Wales where the tolls are to be removed next year.
“Though the capacity for cross river traffic on the Mersey will increase when the Mersey Gateway opens, the official forecasts of traffic are that because of tolls there will actually be less traffic crossing the river at this point than there is now.
“Someone is presumably making money out of this scheme but it will have achieved nothing for the public as all that will happen is that the congestion will move elsewhere including to the Mersey Tunnels, Warrington and the M6.
“The whole scheme is a scandal.
“According to the (Halton) council the cost of the scheme is nearly £2bn and they will no doubt be aiming to collect more than that in tolls.
“This cost compares with an estimated cost of only £200m when a scheme for an untolled publicly financed Mersey bridge was submitted to the Government at the end of 2003.
“Making this scheme a tolled private finance scheme has not only vastly increased the costs, it has also delayed the building of a bridge as the scheme submitted to the Government in 2003 would have been built and open by 2008.”
He added: “The mantra constantly repeated by the region’s politicians was that it was ‘a tolled bridge or no bridge’.
“Many drivers would have preferred no new bridge to being forced to pay tolls to cross the river to visit family and friends or go to work.
“Many businesses will be hit by the effect of tolls on not only their own vehicles but on those of their employees and customers.
“What a pity that our area has such weak politicians that they could not achieve a new untolled bridge as the Scots have.
“Even worse, our politicians are putting a toll on the Silver Jubilee Bridge.
“This is the first time in the UK that a toll will have been imposed on a previously free-to-use crossing.
“The Scots are getting The Queen to open their new bridge.
“It would be appropriate that whoever is invited to open the ‘Mersey Gateway’ is either dressed as Dick Turpin or as an executioner as this scheme will kill our local economy.”