The Mersey Gateway Project

Latest Mersey Gateway research shows project expected to bring over 4,000 job gains to the region as public inquiry date is announced

February 23, 2009LornaNews

New research published by Halton Borough Council has backed the council’s bid to build a new toll bridge over the River Mersey between Runcorn and Widnes.

It comes as the Department for Transport has confirmed the start date for the public inquiry as 19 May 2009. The inquiry will take place at the Stobart Stadium, Halton.

The research, published today (Monday 23 February), shows the proposed new bridge and associated regeneration activity will help to bring a number of major benefits to the region. The Wider Economic Impact Report (WEIR) predicts that the project will create:

  • 4,640 permanent new jobs as a result of the operation of the Mersey Gateway, regeneration activity and inward investment; and
  • 470 ten year equivalent temporary jobs generated in the north west region through the construction of the Mersey Gateway. There may be up to 500 people employed at the peak of construction.

The predictions in the other research documents include:

  • Some local journey times reduced by up to almost 40% in peak periods by 2030;
  • 85% less daily traffic using the Silver Jubilee Bridge in 2015, freeing it up for use as local bridge;
  • major improvements to public transport and walking and cycling facilities;
  • environmental benefits from less congestion, resulting in lower carbon emissions.

Cllr Tony McDermott, Leader of Halton Borough Council and Chair of the Mersey Gateway Executive Board, said: “This project will be good for the economy, good for the environment and good for Halton. It will provide a long-term solution to the congestion problems that are hampering the economy, bring jobs and investment to our area and also play a major part in helping the Liverpool City Region regain its status as a premier European city. We’re now looking forward to the public inquiry which starts in May.”

David Parr, Chief Executive of Halton Borough Council, said: “We have said all along that this project is about much more than just a new bridge. The current economic downturn makes these wider benefits of the Mersey Gateway even more crucial for the region. The forecasts we have published could be seen as very cautious given the potential of this project and the interest we have had from businesses investing in the area. The eventual numbers could be much higher – The Stobart Group estimates that the 3MG project in Widnes could create 5,000 jobs in the next 10-15 years, and the project will be crucial in assisting in delivering these jobs.

Steve O’Connor at The Stobart Group, said: “For us the prospect of a new bridge and all the benefits it brings is a vital part of our business plan for developing our operations here in Widnes. We believe that the journey time reliability, aligned with the significant regeneration potential, mean that this project is crucial for the area. I am not surprised that this latest research shows that it will mean new jobs and investment for Halton and the Liverpool city-region, and I am convinced this new bridge must go ahead.”

Lorraine Rogers, Chief Executive of The Mersey Partnership, said: “The Mersey Gateway Project is one of a number of significant transport infrastructure projects across the Liverpool City Region that have the potential to combine and bring significant investment to the area. Together with proposed developments at Liverpool John Lennon Airport and the Port of Liverpool we have a unique opportunity here to develop the regional economy in a way that will make a real difference for decades to come.”

If, after the public inquiry, the Secretary of State approves the project, it is envisaged that construction work will start in 2011, with the new bridge expected to open in 2014.

If the project goes ahead charges will also be introduced on the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge. Toll levels have not yet been set, but it is expected that they will be similar to the cost of traveling through one of the Mersey Tunnels. The project team is actively investigating the best way to provide discounts to groups like local people and regular users.

Further details of the benefits the project will bring to the region:

Gross employment gains – 4,640 new jobs

Gross employment gains are expected to arise from:

  • 98 direct jobs in operation and maintenance of the bridge and tolling system;
  • 1,500 new jobs through inward investment; and
  • 3,040 new jobs from activities through the Mersey Gateway Regeneration Strategy.

Overall, residents in Halton and the other target regeneration areas in the region are expected to fill 1,235 of these new positions and benefit from improved access to existing jobs.

Wider economic impact:

It is estimated that by 2030 the net additional job gains will generate some £61.9 million (2009 prices) in Gross Value Added (GVA) per annum.

Journey time savings:

The traffic model used for the project predicts traffic flows around the region based on drivers’ predicted future behaviour. It predicts journey times in future years with and without the new bridge. The analysis does not take into account improvements to journey time reliability but examples of average savings in specific journey times in 2030 during the morning peak period are predicted to be:

  • Stobart Stadium, Halton to the Frodsham area– a saving of about nine minutes, equivalent to a 25% reduction in the journey time without the scheme
  • Daresbury area to Liverpool John Lennon Airport –a saving of almost seven minutes, again equivalent to a 25% reduction in the journey time without the scheme
  • Preston Brook to Green Oaks Shopping Centre – a saving of seven minutes, equivalent to a reduction of over 35% in the journey time without the scheme.

The Silver Jubilee Bridge:

Now crossed by over 30million users every year, the Silver Jubilee Bridge (SJB) carries over ten times the amount of traffic it initially carried, is the only route for cars to cross the Mersey through Halton and is a notorious traffic bottleneck. Around 85% of daily traffic crossing the river in Halton will use the new bridge in 2015 and the road layout on the SJB will be changed to one lane in each direction alongside dedicated space for cyclists and pedestrians.

Environmental benefits:

Less congestion will mean less queuing traffic, which will produce cost savings for drivers to offset against the cost of tolls as well as a net reduction in CO2 emissions of 291,000 tonnes over the sixty year assessment period.

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