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Southampton's Itchen Bridge toll barriers removed after crashing down on vehicles
IT was a controversial scheme designed to make life easier for thousands of motorists entering the city.
Coin toss bins, electronic smartcards and barriers controlled by sensors were all part of a council masterplan to reduce queues either side of Southampton’s Itchen Bridge.
But just months after being installed, transport chiefs have removed the new barriers after they crashed down on four vehicles – including a motorcyclist.
When the Daily Echo revealed details of the proposals back in December 2010, the council’s former Tory administration said that the automated system would “improve traffic flows and save money” to the tune of around £250,000 a year.
However, Labour leaders confirmed that the barriers have been taken away indefinitely while the situation is reviewed.
The decision has sparked fresh calls from Southampton motorists to scrap the automated toll system completely.
As previously reported by the Daily Echo, Derek Popplestone, 67, and his wife Jill face being charged £25 to cross the bridge in their motorhome, because the tariffs charged to motorists are now based on a vehicle’s height.
Derek said: “I can cross the Humber Bridge, the Dartford crossing and go into Wales for the same price as a car. Why? Because the booths are manned.
“If they can man booths there what’s wrong with keeping them manned on the Itchen Bridge? This was purely a cost-cutting measure from the council and it’s backfired in their face.”
David Mant, 66, of Woolston, Southampton, claimed the barriers “have the potential to kill someone”.
The part-time taxi driver said: “What if it came down, knocked a motorcyclist off his bike and they broke their neck? It’s an accident waiting to happen.
“I definitely want to see the barriers stay away before someone gets hurt.”
Another Woolston resident, Andrew Matthews, said: “I’m a motorcyclist myself and when I first went through the barriers I did think ‘That could cause some damage’. They really come down at some speed.
“I’m pleased to see them gone. I always thought they were a hazard.”
A spokesman for Southampton City Council said that no reports of injuries or compensation claims that had been lodged following the incidents.
The spokesman added: “During the introduction of the new automated toll collection system concerns had been expressed by drivers that the introduction of the barriers could be causing increased transaction times, resulting in slightly longer travel times at peak hours. To test this, the barriers have been removed.
“In parallel with this, there have been four occasions where, in exceptional circumstances, vehicles and barriers had come into contact, although without any resulting injuries.
“Once both of these situations have been reviewed a decision will be taken on the reinstatement of the barriers.”