Mersey Tunnels

The Kingsway (Wallasey) and Queensway (Birkenhead) tunnels are part of our key city region’s road network.

The tunnels are regarded as the safest tunnels in the UK and amongst the safest in Europe for their age following the last independent assessment.

The tunnels became assets of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (CA) in April 2014.

Merseytravel remains responsible for the day-to-day operation and maintenance of the tunnels and procuring and overseeing major infrastructure projects.

The tunnels estate consists of:

  • 14km of road, when including the tunnel and approach roads
  • 5,428 light fittings, including those on the approach roads
  • 44 in-tunnel ventilation fans
  • 8 ventilation stations each with six four-story high fans
  • 30 water pumps to remove ground water
  • 32 jet fans which clear smoke in the event of an emergency
  • 11 standby electricity generators which have enough capacity to supply 2700 homes
  • 400 CCTV cameras linked up to the central control room to assist in assessing traffic flow and in the event of accidents and emergencies.

Why are the tunnels tolled?

Only those road projects, including tunnels, built on approval from Government as part of the national road network are paid for indirectly via road tax and general taxation. The tunnels were built as a joint venture by local authorities and their upkeep and maintenance remains outside of the national road network. This is the case too for tunnels such as the Dartford and Tyne.

There is currently no national road tolling strategy. The Government has no plans to bring the Mersey Tunnels into the national road network. However, there is the benefit that the money raised locally through the tolls is spent locally, unlike road tax and general taxation which goes into a central pot.

Maintaining the tunnels is a significant undertaking, not least because of their age. Millions of pounds of investment is needed to keep the tunnels operating on a day-to-day basis and millions more to make any improvements.

The tolls also go towards paying off the residual debt from their construction (due to be paid off in 2048) and the money borrowed for past improvements when the tunnel tolls were insufficient to cover costs. These payments are fixed and the penalties incurred by paying them off early would make the debt more expensive and therefore be a false economy. The Tunnels Act 2004 now ensures sufficient funds are generated through tunnel use to allow for their upkeep and improvement without borrowing.

You can find out more about the tunnels and go behind the scenes on one of our Mersey Tunnels Tours.

Who sets the toll levels and how?

From 2015/16 tunnel toll levels have been decided by the Combined Authority and are  in line with the Tunnels Act 2004.

Under the Tunnels Act 2004, the tolls are calculated on a formula linked to inflation. The Act offers residents the commitment that the toll will not rise above inflation, something not offered by many others.

Where can I find out more?

More information on the Tunnels, tolls and the Fast Tag scheme visit the dedicated website