Mersey Gateway inquiry hears how project will improve noise and air quality levels
The Mersey Gateway Project will improve air quality and reduce noise levels across large parts of Halton and reduce the amount of pollutants generated by traffic travelling throughout the region.
The public inquiry into the project today (Wednesday 27 May) heard evidence from leading air quality and noise experts. They described how they have used the latest government guidance to look closely at how the construction and operation of the new bridge, and the other changes planned for the road network, will affect noise and air quality in 500 different locations throughout the area by 2015 and 2030.
The new bridge will mean substantial improvements in air quality and noise levels in both Widnes and Runcorn town centres and around and across the Silver Jubilee Bridge. The identified negative impacts in areas alongside the Central Expressway and on Wigg Island were described as generally minor and of ‘low negative significance’, with predicted air quality and noise levels remaining well within national standards.
The project will also mean lower CO2 and other emissions at a regional level due to a more environmentally friendly traffic regime brought about by the changes in the road layout and alterations to traffic flow and average speeds. This modelling is based on tolls being introduced at a level similar to the Mersey Tunnel tolls.
It was also confirmed today at the public inquiry into the Mersey Gateway Project that Halton Borough Council is looking to undertake additional noise and air quality surveys in the future to measure the precise impact of the project across the area.
Should the project get the go ahead, the surveys will take place before construction starts and be repeated again within a year of the new bridge opening, once traffic levels have settled.
The council is hoping to meet with local residents groups in the future to discuss the exact measurement points for the surveys, but it is envisaged they will be located along the route and in town centre and residential areas on both sides of the river.
Steve Nicholson, Mersey Gateway Project Director, said: “We have provided the inspector and the public inquiry with extensive noise and air quality modelling data and forecasts and are confident this project will make a major contribution to the improvement of traffic noise levels and air quality throughout Halton and across the region as a whole.”
He added: “However, there are areas like the Central Expressway where we will need to introduce measures like roadside noise barriers to minimise local impacts. Alongside this, we think these additional surveys before construction starts and once the bridge opens will demonstrate the positive impact the project will have and provide reassurance for local residents.
Giving evidence on air quality, Yvonne Brown, Technical Director of Bureau Veritas, said: “The project’s effect on air quality is generally minor in most locations, but it will lead to significant improvements in air quality close to the Silver Jubilee Bridge in Widnes and Runcorn.”
Noise expert Paul Freeborn, Technical Director of Bureau Veritas, who gave evidence to the inquiry, concluded: “In the vast majority of cases there will be reductions in noise due to the project or at worst small increases of less than 3 dB (decibels) which will not be detectable.