The Mersey Gateway river crossing can deliver “a significant social and economic boost to the regional economy”, ICE President Geoff French has said.
French, who visited the project as part of his presidential tour of key regional infrastructure projects in the North West, was briefed by Mersey Gateway project director Steve Nicholson and senior officials from the project’s preferred bidder Merseylink, at the Catalyst science museum overlooking the planned cross-river route.
The crossing will span the Mersey upstream of the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge at Runcorn, which is currently one of the main road routes into Liverpool from the south.
The new bridge will provide a major strategic transport route, with quicker links between the Liverpool city region, the North West and the rest of the country. It would also cut peak journey times across the river by 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, predicted reductions in traffic levels would free up the Silver Jubilee Bridge for more efficient use as a local travel route.
“Mersey Gateway will bring a wide range of economic and social benefits to the wider region, both during construction and once it is operational,” said French.
“The project is set to bring over £61M gross added value annually by 2030, in addition to supporting sustained growth, both for the River Mersey’s seaports and Liverpool John Lennon Airport.
“Business productivity throughout the Mersey corridor is also forecast to increase when the bridge opens in 2017.
“This clearly demonstrates the massive impact civil engineering infrastructure schemes make as drivers of economic regeneration,” added French.
ICE North West chairman, David Rowlinson said the Institution was a “long-standing regional supporter of the crossing” and its crucial role in long-term economic development.
“While the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge has long provided a vital infrastructure link across the river, the pressures of ever-increasing traffic levels are putting it under unacceptable duress,” he said.
“A second crossing between Runcorn and Widnes will bring tangible and sustainable economic benefits to the region.
“For example, the project is forecast to bring in over 4,500 permanent new jobs through its operation, regeneration activity and inward investment.”
Rowlinson said he also fully endorsed the wide range of social benefits included in the scheme.
“The scheme will deliver safer new routes for pedestrians and cyclists across and around the river,” he said.