Plans for a £431M crossing of the River Mersey near Runcorn are set to move forward this week with the start of a six week public inquiry into the scheme.
The government has given its backing to the Mersey Gateway project, of which the centrepiece is a new tolled bridge over the Mersey, between the Central Expressway in Runcorn and Eastern Bypass in Widnes. The existing Silver Jubilee Bridge, which will also be tolled, will be remodelled as a local bridge as part of the scheme.
The inquiry, led by inquiry inspector Alan Gray, got underway on Tuesday at the Stobart Stadium, Halton.
The best solution
Gray will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State as to whether the proposal should or should not go ahead after hearing evidence from Halton Borough Council, the Mersey Gateway project team and objectors.
“I feel confident that we have developed the best solution, which is economical, it fits the environment and it is deliverable within the funding terms we have agreed with the government,” said Halton Borough Council leader Tony McDermott.
“During my 11 years as leader, this has been the most important, most difficult and, yet, the most exciting project I have been involved with.”
Tony McDermott, Halton Borough Council
McDermott has described the plans for the new Mersey Gateway as the most important project of his career.
He has submitted his views to the Mersey Gateway public inquiry and said he believed the transport project was vital for the region’s social and economic.
“During my 11 years as leader, this has been the most important, most difficult and, yet, the most exciting project I have been involved with,” said McDermott in his submission.
“The proposals before the inquiry are supported by extensive investigation and assessment of alternatives, exploring different routes for the new crossing and also looking into public transport and travel demand as solutions to the acute failure of the Silver Jubilee Bridge.”
The new bridge will provide a much-needed second crossing over the River Mersey, and will provide a major new strategic transport route linking the Liverpool city-region and the north west to the rest of the country.
Predictions in 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
- Major improvements to public transport, walking and cycling
- Environmental benefits from less congestion, resulting in lower carbon emissions