The Mersey Gateway Project
A new scheme has been approved by the Government for a toll bridge to be built over the River Mersey from Runcorn to Widnes. The main purpose of the £470 million project is to reduce the congestion on the Silver Jubilee Bridge that currently joins the two towns.
The Mersey Gateway will be a six-lane toll bridge, stretching 2.3km, set 1.5km east of the Silver Jubilee Bridge with a speed limit of 60mph and it will integrate public transport, cycle paths, pedestrian links as well as the usual conventional traffic. This bridge is set to improve regional transport links, encourage new inward investment and it is set to kick start a major 20-year regeneration programme for Halton.
The new bridge will be 70 percent funded by the private sector which includes funding from the tolls paid which are likely to be similar to the Mersey Tunnels. (As of March 2012 it costs £1.50 for a one way car journey through one of the Mersey Tunnels). It will create an estimated 4,640 new jobs for the area which will generate and potential £61.9 million a year Gross Value Added from the new jobs by 2030. The Government is contributing £470 million which comes in two parts; an upfront grant of £86 million and a long term revenue support of £14.55 million a year for 26.5 years after opening which is due in 2016.
The time scales for the project are as follows:
Spring 2012 - Shortlist of bidders announced
Spring 2013 - Preferred bidder announced
Autumn 2013 - Final appointment confirmed
Autumn 2013 - Construction work starts
Autumn 2016 – Mersey Gateway Bridge scheduled to open.
Halton Borough Council is currently going through a procurement process to discover a private sector partner who will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the new bridge and the approaching roads. This will also include the improvements to the current Silver Jubilee Bridge which involves amending the bridge for two lanes of traffic, a large cycle area and pedestrian pathway to be. It is believed that selected partner will not be known until 2013.
Their objects of the Mersey Gateway as listed below;
- Relieve the mass of congestion on the Silver Jubilee Bridge.
- Apply minimum toll charges to both the new bridge and the current bridge to allow the project to be funded.
- Maximise the accessibility for local development and regional economic growth opportunities.
- Improve public transport links.
- Encourage the use of cycling and walking.
- Enhance local air quality with less congestion.
The design of the bridge is similar to the second Severn Crossing which is a cable structure with three towers. Its total length will be 2.3km yet the bridge will span 1km over the water and will be 150m above the River Mersey below. The total road length is estimated at 9.5km long connecting North Wales, Merseyside, Runcorn, Liverpool and Cheshire.
The bigger project once the Mersey Gateway is completed is the regeneration of Halton and the surrounding towns which includes five of the borough’s most deprived areas; West Bank, Runcorn Old Town, Astmoor/ Wigg Island, Halton Lea and Rocksavage. The project has been classed ‘green’ as it has plans for a 28.5 hectare nature reserve around the bridge.
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