Cost of Silver Jubilee Bridge closure revealed as Mersey Gateway’s importance to region is recognised
The economic cost to the north west of closing the Silver Jubilee Bridge has been calculated at £160,000 an hour according to new figures released by Halton Borough Council.
The figure was unveiled at a special Mersey Gateway briefing event today (Wednesday 14 July), where business leaders, council executives and emergency services providers from across the north west were urged to support the project and make their voice heard in government by writing to ministers.
The Mersey Gateway summit, which was held at the Partnership for Learning Building on Speke Road in Liverpool, attracted over 50 delegates from the public and private sectors across the region.
They heard how the proposed new bridge is in a strong position to meet the new government’s spending criteria, as it will:
- be over 70% funded by the private sector
- bring benefits 4 times greater than the cost
- mean an estimated 4,640 new jobs through direct employment,regeneration activity and inward investment
- generate an estimated £61.9 million a year in Gross Value Added from thenew jobs by 2030, and
- form the centrepiece of a new and improved high standard link road (9.5km long) connecting the national motorway network in north Cheshire with Merseyside.
The aim of the Mersey Gateway Project is to build a new six lane toll bridge across the River Mersey between Runcorn and Widnes. The Silver Jubilee Bridge will also be tolled as part of the project. It was placed on hold on 10 June, along with all major transport schemes across the country, by the new coalition government. It will now be considered as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, which is due to report back to parliament on 20 October.
The Silver Jubilee Bridge is the only crossing over the Mersey along a 20-mile stretch between the Mersey Tunnels and Warrington. It first opened in 1961, when it was designed to carry less than 10,000 vehicles a day. Today it carries over 80,000 vehicles a day and essential maintenance is only possible during overnight and off peak periods.
Incidents and accidents are causing increasing concern as even the most insignificant vehicle breakdown results in extensive traffic queuing and delay. When the Silver Jubilee Bridge is closed under emergency measures the consequences are felt across the region with traffic throughout the road network grinding to a halt.
The cost estimation, which is for a one hour closure under current peak period traffic conditions, was carried out at the request of emergency planners following a police incident on Friday 2 July, where the entire bridge was shut for two hours during the busy Friday afternoon rush hour, causing chaos for businesses, commuters and residents.
Councillor Rob Polhill, leader of Halton Borough Council, said: “The actual cost of the recent bridge closure could easily be double this amount. We have only assessed the cost of direct lost time, and extra fuel during the hour of closure, and not the time taken for the network to recover to normal traffic flow or the secondary impacts on business and people due to late delivery of goods and delayed travel.”
Steve O’Connor, Managing Director of Stobart Ports, said: “This shows the importance of this vital river crossing in Halton to businesses right across our region. The Silver Jubilee Bridge is a critical infrastructure link for the north west, but it is out dated and under immense pressure on a daily basis. We badly need a new crossing, and I would urge every business that uses the Silver Jubilee Bridge to write to government and show how crucial this new bridge and the associated investment are to our region.”
David Parr, Chief Executive, said: “Although our plans for the new crossing are delayed we remain confident that Mersey Gateway will receive government support in the autumn and that we can go on to deliver this vitally important project for Halton, Cheshire, Merseyside and the wider north west region.”
Steve Nicholson, Mersey Gateway Project Director, said: “The government is looking to alternative funding sources to help relieve the deficit and maintain the level of investment in infrastructure vital to support economic recovery, Mersey Gateway could lead the way as it offers exceptional value for money, would be delivered with over two thirds of the funding provided through tolling, and can be the catalyst for thousands of new jobs and vital future investment across Cheshire, Merseyside and the north west.”