Double boost for Mersey Gateway Project
Halton Borough Council has received a double boost in its bid to build a new bridge over the River Mersey with approval from new Roads Minister Paul Clark MP and the new shadow authority in Cheshire West and Chester also supporting the scheme.
The Minister and the Department for Transport have reconfirmed that the project meets its strict value for money criteria and is still in line to receive over £200million of government support to help fund its construction cost and to keep toll levels minimal.
In responding to the revised proposal from government the Mersey Gateway Executive Board has unanimously agreed that the simplified funding conditions drawn up are acceptable to Halton. The Board also endorsed the Statement of Case submitted by the project team to the planning inspectorate.
The Statement of Case is a key document that the project team needs to submit in advance of the forthcoming public inquiry to summarise its case for building the new bridge. It outlines the wide ranging reasons for developing the new bridge and undertaking the associated investment in regeneration activity and improved sustainable transport facilities.
Copies of it are available to inspect in the Documents section of the website and in the Kingsway Learning Centre in Widnes and Halton Lea Library in Runcorn.
The new shadow authority for Cheshire West and Chester has given its backing for the scheme, though it has requested that Halton Borough Council consider either a substantially discounted or free to use Silver Jubilee Bridge as part of the proposals.
Cllr Tony McDermott, Leader of Halton Borough Council and Chair of the Mersey Gateway Executive Board, said: “This is an important step as it means the government has looked carefully at our detailed plans and is still happy that the proposals are good value for money and meet all the necessary financial targets. Major projects like the are complicated and take time to deliver, but we are still on track to start building in 2011 and open the new bridge to the public in 2014.”
Steve Nicholson, Director of the Mersey Gateway Project, added: “We welcome the support from the new shadow authority in Cheshire West and Chester. While we share their interest in developing the best possible discount package for local and frequent users of the Silver Jubilee Bridge, the funding agreement with government is based on tolling both bridges, and it is important to remember that a free to use Silver Jubilee Bridge is not an option for us.”
The total cost of the project in today’s prices is £431million. The Department for Transport’s funding contribution is £86million in grants and a further £123million in Private Finance Initiative (PFI) credits. The remainder of the funding will be invested by the private sector company that will be appointed to build and operate the bridge. It will then recoup this money through tolls and charges paid by people crossing the new bridge and the Silver Jubilee Bridge.
On 30 September this year the Department for Transport confirmed that there will be a public inquiry into the proposals. Although no date or venue has yet been set for the public inquiry, it is envisaged that it will take place in Halton early in 2009.