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Mersey Gateway bridge drops double-deck to help save £30M

Mersey Gateway scheme promoter Halton Borough Council is dropping plans for a double-deck for its bridge between Runcorn and Widnes in north west England in a cost saving exercise, its project chief told NCE this week.

By dropping the requirement for a double-deck, as well other measures such as introducing open road tolling (see box), £30M could be saved on the £600M scheme, said Mersey Gateway project director Steve Nicholson.

Under original plans, the three-span cable-stayed bridge deck consisted of a three-lane highway on top, with the lower-deck left empty to allow a light rail transit (LRT) to be developed at some point in the future.

However, Halton has now said that any future LRT scheme could run over the existing Silver Jubilee bridge, meaning a cheaper single deck can be constructed for the Gateway.

Halton has submitted the planning modifications to the Halton planning authority and a new decision is due next month. The previous application had gained final approval last year with three bidders shortlisted for the scheme last week. Despite the modifications the project is not expected to face any delays in programme. The full scheme is expected to be complete in 2016.

Tolling experience

Experience in “open road tolling” was likely to be key in the award of the contract to construct and operate the £600M Mersey Gateway crossing, Mersey Gateway project director Steve Nicholson told NCE.

Changes to the scope of the project meant open road tolling was essential to making the project financial viable. The changes mean that toll plazas at each end of the crossring could be removed, saving money. However, the type of system used will be decided by the contractor.

“We want to give space for contractors to innovate,” said Nicholson. “But the DBFO [design build finance and operate] consortium has to have experience in open road tolling schemes.” A preferred bidder is expected to be announced in December.

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