Mersey Gateway modifications approved by Halton Borough Council
Halton Borough Council last night (Monday 12 March) approved a series of modifications to the Mersey Gateway Project.
The Council’s Development Control Committee unanimously approved the changes, which will reduce the impact of the scheme on residents, save £30 million and deliver design improvements and flexibility along the route of the new six-lane toll bridge over the Mersey between the towns of Runcorn and Widnes.
Responses to the Mersey Gateway Project team’s consultation on the plans in the autumn of 2011 showed broad support for the modifications. Over 200 people attended exhibitions about the plans in Runcorn and Widnes and a number of people made comments relating to the proposals. These comments showed that:
- 75% of respondents who commented felt the design modifications proposed for Widnes had a positive or neutral impact,
- 71% of respondents who commented felt that the alternative designs for the new bridge and along the route that could improve value for money had a positive or neutral impact,
- 78% of respondents who commented felt that the design modifications proposed along the Central Expressway in Runcorn had a positive or neutral impact, and
- 72% of respondents who commented on the issue supported the principle of open road tolling.
Cllr Rob Polhill, Leader of Halton Borough Council, said: “These modifications are not major changes, but they do improve the scheme and reduce the overall cost by around £30 million. They will also allow us to work closely with the shortlisted bidders to allow them to innovate and deliver the best possible project that works for local residents, commuters, taxpayers and the public purse.”
The modifications to the road layouts on either side of the river will reduce projected traffic levels on local routes around Halton Brow in Runcorn, and remove the need for large toll plazas in Widnes.
The move to an open road tolling system will mean using cameras and modern technology to record vehicle recognition details for the collection of tolls for crossing both the new bridge and the Silver Jubilee Bridge.
Drivers will still be charged for crossing the river, but the toll plazas that were to have been developed in Widnes will not be built, and traffic will be more free-flowing.
On the Runcorn side of the river the approved modifications have largely been developed as a result of listening to previous concerns from local residents and councillors. The project team has adjusted the plans for the slip roads at either side of Halton Brow to reduce projected peak time traffic levels on the slip road alongside Warrington Road by up to 60% and to improve access to facilities at Halton Lea.
The approvals also cover possible design modifications for the new bridge. The route of the new crossing is not being changed but the project team would like to increase the design flexibility available to the project company, which will be responsible for confirming the design of the new bridge, by taking into account the proposed construction methods.
The design modifications to the main bridge under consideration would not accommodate a future light rail scheme and if these were adopted the council would use the Silver Jubilee Bridge, rather than the new bridge, for future public transport services, including any future light rail proposals.
The existing planning permissions still apply. This means that, should the council wish to, it can still build the new bridge to the original plans that were considered at a public inquiry back in 2009.