PATIENTS who need to cross the Humber Bridge regularly to attend hospital appointments for cancer treatment will win exemptions from tolls from next month.
It follows more than a decade of campaigning by people including the late Jenny Walton, who campaigned tirelessly for a reduction to tolls, and lost her long battle with cancer earlier this year.
The six-month trial will only be open to patients, travelling from the south bank, who have to go at least 12 times to the oncology department at Castle Hill Hospital, Cottingham, as part of a course of treatment.
But there are hopes it will be expanded to patients who need other treatments in future.
Mrs Walton’s husband Trevor, from Kirmington, North Lincolnshire, said his wife, who was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, would have thought it “absolutely marvellous and not before time.”
He said: “We started in a very small way, with Jenny, myself and a small group of like-minded people in my front room, and then it moved on and we got local councillors, then local MPs involved and it was talked about in Parliament.
“We managed to get it to the Treasury and they decided in their wisdom that they would cut tolls in half and remove a major part of the debt. This is the icing on the cake.
“I just hope it becomes permanent and extends to everyone with a life-threatening illness.”
Dr Raj Roy, clinical director for the specialist services division and consultant clinical oncologist for Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “This is a fantastic gesture from the Humber Bridge Board and something that we are sure our patients will welcome.
“Patients travel from south of the river for very complex and lengthy treatments in the Queen’s Centre at Castle Hill Hospital, so knowing the cost of their bridge tolls is covered will give them one less thing to worry about, and will serve as a great boost.
“Some of our patients have been calling for exemption from bridge tolls for many years now, including the late Jenny Walton, who was a very strong and passionate campaigner. I’m sure many people will be delighted by this latest news.”
The move comes months after a historic Bill to make the Humber Bridge “fit for the 21st Century” received its Royal Assent as part of a deal which halved charges for motorists.
It also allowed the board to make concessions to certain groups like hospital patients.
North Lincolnshire Council leader Chris Shaw said: “For some time, the Board has considered introducing a concession for cancer patients, so it’s great news that the trial has finally been agreed by all Directors and will commence shortly.
“The trial will enable us to test the management of this concession to see how feasible it is in the long-term. It will also be interesting to gather feedback from cancer patients who will benefit from this toll exemption about the positive impact it has.”
Brigg and Goole MP Andrew Percy said: “I am very sorry that Jenny Walton who campaigned so hard isn’t here to see this.
“My hope is that it will be successful and it will be expanded.”
Macmillan Cancer Support – which did research last year which showed four in five cancer patients are hit with an average cost of £570 a month as a result of their illness - described the move as “great news.”