HALF the annual £37m collected in Mersey Tunnel Tolls is diverted away from their staffing and maintenance, The Post can reveal.
Figures obtained from transport authority Merseytravel show that more than a quarter of tolls – around £10m annually – is still being used to pay off historic debts on the tunnels, which stand at more than £58m.
And another 15% of tolls – which equated to £5.6m last year – is used to pay for other public transport services across Merseyside.
At the current rate the debt on the tunnels is due to be virtually paid-off by 2026.
The release of the figures comes as Labour-run Merseytravel is considering whether to increase tolls by 10p (from £1.50) for cars from April – a move that would generate an additional £2.6m for the authority.
John McGoldrick, secretary of the Tunnels Users Association, said the figures showed the “rip-off” of the Mersey Tunnels Act 2004 which allows Merseytravel to increase tolls by inflation each year if they wish.
He said: “Merseytravel could choose to reduce tolls if they wanted. They should stop taking money from the tunnels to finance other things, and instead pay the debt.”
He said if the debt was wiped out, it was conceivable that tunnel tolls need not rise for a long time, if ever.
Merseytravel has previously been reticent to discuss how the income from tolls is spent.
But chairman Liam Robinson, who took over the organisation in the summer, is committed to new levels of transparency.
He agreed to release the figures to The Post, but said the issue of tunnel tolls could not be taken in isolation from the wider public transport picture for the region.
“Clearly, Merseytravel is responsible for developing and maintaining a truly integrated transport system for the whole city region.
“This means that aspects of the whole system depend on each other, with tunnels, ferries, bus and train services all inter-dependent.
“This also means that it is right to use surpluses generated by one part of the system to support areas which need to be funded in the interests of the whole community.”