Mersey Gateway consultation launched
A major consultation exercise to gather views on the £390m Mersey Gateway project to build a landmark new bridge over the River Mersey between Runcorn and Widnes was launched today (Monday 18th June).
Halton Borough Council’s Leader, Councillor Tony McDermott, and Chief Executive, David Parr, joined the Mersey Gateway Project Director Steve Nicholson at the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre in Widnes to launch the 14-week consultation.
They gave a demonstration of the unique new 3D digital model of the new bridge. The innovative 3D model uses state of the art technology to allow people from across the borough to view how the unique and exciting new bridge will look from anywhere in Widnes or Runcorn.
The draft design is based on a cable-stay structure, which is similar to the second Seven Crossing but with three towers. At their highest point the two outer towers will stand 135m above the river bed. The cable-stay element of the bridge across the estuary is 1 kilometre long, and the overall length of the bridge is 2.3 kilometres. The whole project will transform a road network nearly 10km long stretching from the M56 south of Runcorn to Speke Road in Widnes.
The Mersey Gateway will bring a wide range of benefits to the area including:
- local and regional regeneration in Widnes, Runcorn and across the region
- significant journey time savings for thousands of local people, commuters and businesses
- transport accessibility, certainty and reliability
- the direct creation of over 1600 permanent jobs
- an estimated £650million worth of benefits to road users over a 30 year period
- £40million additional increase in economic performance per annum across the region
- a major strategic new transport route linking the Liverpool city-region and the north west to the rest of the country.
The Mersey Gateway team is specifically consulting on two important aspects of the programme between now and September 21st. These are:
1. How should the Silver Jubilee Bridge (SJB) best be redeveloped as a bridge for local people?
The project will redirect through traffic away from the SJB towards the new crossing by removing some of the current access roads to the SJB. This will mean the SJB will mainly be used by local residents and businesses living and working in Halton.
The team is keen to hear the views of local people in particular on whether the Silver Jubilee Bridge should remain as it is or feature improved facilities for public transport, cyclists and pedestrians.
2. Where should the priority for any discounts on tolling be focused?
Both the new Mersey Gateway Bridge and the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge will be tolled as part of the project. The exact toll level is still to be determined, but it is likely to be similar to the cost of travelling through one of the Mersey Tunnels.
The team is actively looking at the best way to introduce discounts on tolls. This could be based around user groups such as local residents, regular users, HGV’s etc., or around issues such as which bridge people use, or what time of day they cross.
Councillor Tony McDermott, Leader of Halton Borough Council, and Chair of the Mersey Gateway Executive Board, said: “This project is about much more than just a bridge, as it has the potential to act as a catalyst for regeneration across the region. We?re looking at a broad range of options on providing discounts on the tolls people will pay for using the bridges and how we can make the Silver Jubilee Bridge as user-friendly as possible for local people, and we’re really keen to hear the views of as many people as possible.”
David Parr, Chief Executive of Halton Borough Council, added: “The new bridge will be an exciting and unique structure that will be recognisable across the north west and beyond. The draft design is based on a cable-stay structure, which is similar to the second Seven Crossing but with three towers. It will be a new landmark for our region and one that will help us continue to transform our economic fortunes.
Roy Morris, Chair of The Mersey Partnership, said: “We are fully behind the project. The Mersey Gateway is important to the Liverpool City Region and north west, as it has the potential to be a vital addition to our strategic road network. We have been working closely with the project team to give our input to the process, and I believe that the project has the potential to bring new jobs and businesses to the north west.”
Steve Nicholson, Project Director of the Mersey Gateway, said: “Doing nothing is simply not an option. The Silver Jubilee Bridge is struggling to cope with the 30 million vehicles that use it every year, and traffic levels are continuing to grow. The only way this project will work is to toll both bridges. A free to use Silver Jubilee Bridge with a tolled Mersey Gateway wouldn?t solve the congestion problems we are facing, and we have to do something to solve this issue, and even without a new bridge we might have to introduce tolls or regulate access to the Silver Jubilee Bridge in the future.”
The Mersey Gateway will run from the Central Expressway in Runcorn to the Eastern Bypass in Widnes and ultimately connect with Speke Road heading towards Liverpool. At its midpoint, it is around one and a half kilometres to the east of the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge.
The route has been chosen carefully so that there are no inhabited residential properties directly affected by the project. The Mersey Gateway team has identified and contacted directly affected landowners, leaseholders and tenants at over 100 business locations along the route to inform them of the plans for the project and the details of how it will affect them.
The new bridge will have three lanes in each direction across the river. It will be an iconic structure that will be recognisable across the north west and beyond.
Due to the scale and importance of the project there is likely to be a public inquiry into the new crossing before the Secretary of State for Transport can give final approval. Construction work on the project is due to start in 2011, and it is scheduled to open to the public in 2014.