Residents who pay a 12p toll to cross a bridge every time they go in and out of their own village have slammed plans to increase the fee to £1.
Locals in Warburton, Greater Manchester, are now bracing themselves for the 733% price hike, the first in more than a century.
For 160 years, people have paid a modest sum to enter and exit the village via the Warburton Toll Bridge – the only route across the River Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal between the M6 and M60 motorways.
The mere 12p toll has been in place since 1890, and has long been a source of heated debate among people in the village, which has a population of only 300.
The newly proposed plans have sparked controversy among the locals, who say that the historic charge should be scrapped altogether.
Locals who pay 12p to cross a toll bridge every time they go in and out of their own village are bracing themselves amid proposals for the charge to rise to £1 – a 733 per cent increase
The sleepy hamlet of Warburton in Trafford, boasts 17 listed buildings, including a grade 1 listed church, and toll bridge which charges 12p each way. Pictured above is Paddy Ruth outside his home in Warburton
And one resident says that the bridge poses a ‘nightmare’ for those who live there, as there is no upkeep to it.
In order for it to operate, a toll booth attendant simply waves his hand and cars can trundle across a bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal.
The village is home to 17 listed buildings, including St Werburgh’s Church, which traces its roots back around 1,000 years.
Steve Ellis, who lives in nearby Church Green, said: ‘The bridge is a nightmare. When the motorway has a problem, everyone tries to cut through.
‘They don’t upkeep it. If you drive over the bridge there’s that many potholes you wouldn’t believe it.’
The bridge was first built in 1863 by The Manchester Ship Canal Company (MSCC), and it only cost one person on horseback or in a cart 1p – about 18p in today’s money – to cross.
Some time later however, the toll was upped to 12p.
And since then, the sum has remained in place and can only be paid by cash and by hand.
But this could all now change after controversial plans to increase the toll.
It is the first time in more than a century that a plan like this has been put forward.
Now, it has been revealed that the proposed price of £1 is part of a £6.5 million plan to upgrade approach roads, footpaths and the tolling system by Peel Ports, which owns and operates the bridge.
If approved, the new toll will include 50 per cent discounts for nearby residents.
But this has sparked a major debate among the locals, who say that the historic charge should be scrapped altogether.
One local says that the proposed 733% price hike is ‘unfair’, adding he’s supporting a campaign by the Warburton Toll Bridge Action Group to get rid of the charges altogether
Mr Ellis said: ‘I drive over the bridge at least once a day. If they put it up to a quid, it’s going to cost me £4 or £5 a day. It all mounts up.
‘They say they can’t afford to upkeep it but the turnover of that bridge must be in the millions.’
People living in the village say they regularly get caught up in huge tailbacks and queues as motorists wait to hand over their pennies.
At rush hour, queues on Warburton Bridge Road and surrounding roads stretch back for several hundred yards as hundreds of drivers await their turn to pay.
The situation is often made worse when there are incidents on the motorways – the M6 and M60 – as drivers attempt to use the bridge as a cut through, locals say.
According to Syd Rasheed, the number of cars passing through Warburton has ‘trebled’ in the 26 years he has lived there. He said: ‘The bridge causes all sorts of traffic problems. At rush hour, it backs up right the way towards Lymm.
‘I can drive from Manchester to the edge of the village for 20 minutes then it takes another 20 minutes to get home because of all the traffic.
‘The air pollution from the standing traffic is an issue too. The village itself is lovely and it’s a nice little community. We are quite tucked away here, it’s just the toll bridge and the traffic.’
He has also described the proposed 733% price hike as ‘unfair’, adding he’s supporting a campaign by the Warburton Toll Bridge Action Group to get rid of the charges altogether.
Mr Rasheed said: ‘We put up with all the inconvenience of the traffic and now we are going to be slapped with higher rates.
‘It’s £40 a month for people that are working. It’s not affordable and it’s coming at a time when people are struggling. This is not a wealthy village.’
At one stage, locals became so fed up with the traffic chaos that they began paying the fee themselves – all in one go.
Each week, they would hand over £120 to speed up crossings over the privately-owned bridge, which they say left them ‘prisoners in their own homes’.
However, other residents say they are content to put up with the bridge.
Paddy Ruth, whose picturesque cottage is just a stone’s throw from the bridge, said: ‘I’m quite happy to have it. It’s not doing anybody any harm.’
Although he doesn’t mind the bridge most of the time, Mr Ruth admitted it can become a nuisance when it gets busy, adding: ‘People can be quite rude on the bridge because they haven’t got 12p to spare.’
Speaking about the proposed plans, a spokesperson for Peel Ports said: ‘A seven-day Public Inquiry took place in November 2022 at which MSCC presented the benefits of their Sustainable Investment Plan and Warrington and Trafford Councils and other interested parties were able to articulate the basis of their objections.
‘We await the decision upon the TWAO (Transport and Works Act Order) by the Secretary of State for Transport in terms of next steps.
‘The feedback we have received following our non-statutory consultation shows that upgrades to modernise the facilities, maintain the bridge and reduce travel times are needed and very much welcomed.’
The spokesperson added: ‘The toll is the best way to fund these much-needed improvements and the current 12p fee has not changed since 1863, and which had to incorporate the introduction of a VAT liability. Users of the bridge deserve facilities fit for the 21st Century which will ultimately ease congestion, reduce tailbacks and improve the general flow of traffic in the area.
‘The current toll is one of the lowest in England and will not fund the capital investment needed to support the maintenance and modernising of the facilities motorists are in favour of.’