Mersey Gateway team welcomes public inquiry announcement
The team leading the project to build a new bridge over the River Mersey has welcomed today’s (Tuesday 30 September) announcement from the Department for Transport that there will be a public inquiry into the plans.
Although no date or venue has yet been set for the public inquiry, it is envisaged that it will take place in Halton early in 2009.
Cllr Tony McDermott, Leader of Halton Borough Council and Chair of the Mersey Gateway Executive Board, said: “This is excellent news as it means we are still on track to deliver a new bridge and the new jobs, homes, transport infrastructure and inward investment that the associated regeneration programme will bring to Halton.
He added: “We have said all along that a public inquiry is important and would be needed for the Mersey Gateway as this is such an important and complex issue. We firmly believe that everyone needs to have the chance to give their views and contribute to a very public debate. I would urge the government to act quickly to confirm a date and venue quickly so that the inquiry can get underway and involve as many people as possible.”
David Parr, Chief Executive of Halton Borough Council, said: “This announcement is exactly what we were expecting to hear today. It is good news for all the residents, commuters and businesses across the region who have been suffering with the problems caused by the congested Silver Jubilee Bridge for far too long. We have a unique opportunity here to unblock this congestion bottleneck which is restricting our region from reaching its full potential. It is vital that we deliver our vision for the Mersey Gateway that will see new jobs, investment and the continued transformation of Halton and the region.
Following several years of development, Halton Borough Council submitted its plans for the new bridge to the government earlier this year.
Visible from as far away as the Pennines, and described by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) as a ‘project of a lifetime for all those involved’, the proposed new bridge will be a unique and iconic structure that will be recognised worldwide as a symbol for the north west.
The features of the proposed new bridge include:
- a 1,000 metre long cable stay bridge consisting of four spans supported from three towers in the estuary;
- a unique design where the120 metre high central tower will be shorter than the two 140 metre high outer towers;
- a deck carrying six lanes of traffic (three in each direction) with a suggested speed limit of 60mph;
- a lower deck designed with space for a possible future tram or light rail system;
- a curved approach at each end of the bridge giving varying views of its unique design and maximising its visual impact.
The bridge is the centrepiece of the Mersey Gateway Project, which will kick-start a 20- year programme of regeneration and also includes changes to the road layout on the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge that will improve facilities for public transport, walking and cycling.
Both the new bridge and existing Silver Jubilee Bridge will be tolled as part of the project. The exact toll levels are still to be determined but they are likely to be similar to the cost of traveling through one of the Mersey Tunnels (currently £1.40 for a single car journey).
There is no funding available for a new bridge without a toll system, which means the choice is between doing nothing and having a new bridge with tolls.
If the public inquiry gives the go-ahead to the project, it is envisaged that construction work will start in 2011, with the new bridge expected to open in 2014.