I took a trip over the new Mersey Gateway Bridge which opened to traffic after midnight on the morning of Saturday 14th October. It is a new six lane toll bridge over the River Mersey between the towns of Runcorn and Widnes. It also takes traffic over the Manchester Ship Canal which links Liverpool to Salford. My article about a trip down the Manchester Ship Canal from 31 May 2017 has some images of the new Mersey Gateway Bridge during its construction phase.
The Mersey Gateway Project was a major civil engineering scheme to build a cable-stayed bridge with three pylons at 2.3km long with a river span of 1km. The main bridge deck is made from reinforced concrete and the spans are supported by steel cable stays attached to pylons rising up to between 80 and 125m above the river bed. It also included the construction of a 9.2 kilometre road network connecting the new bridge to the main motorway network.
It was built to relieve the congested and ageing Silver Jubilee Bridge. However, in order to pay for the new bridge both the new Mersey Gateway Bridge and the Silver Jubilee Bridge are subject to a £2 toll charge each way. The Silver Jubilee Bridge is currently closed for refurbishment following the opening of the new bridge.
The Mersey Gateway Crossings Board Ltd was set up to deliver the project working closely with the Merseylink consortium, which was appointed as the project company responsible for the building and operation of the bridge over the next 30 years. The £1.86 billion lifetime cost of the new bridge includes the design, build, finance, operation and maintenance of the project through to 2044. The majority of the funding comes from the tolls paid by road users, but there is also a contribution from the UK Government. The build element of the costs is £600m.
The construction used 127,415 cubic metres of concrete, had more than 1,000 people working on the site at peak times and took 1,200 days from start to finish of the construction phase. However, the project took over 23 years from inception when in 1994 the Mersey Gateway Project was set up to develop a new bridge over the River Mersey. In 2006 the Government gave outline approval to the project with funding being agreed in 2011 and a tendering process commenced to appoint a suitable construction consortia. This culminated in 2013 with the Merseylink Consortium being appointed as the preferred bidder for the project with work starting in 2014. The consortium including funders, infra structure and construction companies from Australia, Britain, Spain and Korea.
The bridge is expected to be paid off in 25 years at which point it has been promised that a review on tolls would be conducted. However there has been a mixed response to the new crossing with some people welcoming the new bridge but many others are unhappy at the daily toll costs.
Protests have been staged opposing the decision to implement tolls on both crossings. Campaigners say that the extra transport costs will have a detrimental effect on the area and the local economy.
It is however a very impressive structure to drive over and it certainly does cut the congestion that was associated with the previous single crossing over the Jubilee Bridge.