The Mersey Gateway Project

SILVER JUBILEE BRIDGE UPDATE

November 15, 2020MerseylinkNews, Uncategorized

Halton Borough Council can confirm that the Silver Jubilee Bridge (SJB), a Grade II Listed Structure and the seventh largest steel arch bridge in the world,  is due to reopen to traffic in February 2021 as the major refurbishment programme nears completion.

The majority of the work is now finished, but there is one remaining 12 week project to complete before the bridge can fully reopen to vehicles. Since December 2019 pedestrians and cyclists have been able to use the SJB as they cannot use the Mersey Gateway. This will continue to be the case.

The opening of the Mersey Gateway Bridge in October 2017 provided the first ever opportunity to completely close the Silver Jubilee Bridge for maintenance during its 59 year life, because for the majority of that time it has been the only crossing of the Mersey for miles around.

Listed below is the work already carried out on the SJB during its closure.

  • Refurbishment of the entire steel arch, including strengthening numerous bracing members that had extensive corrosion.
  • The replacement of a cable hanger that had shown evidence of potential early stage failure.The first time this has ever been undertaken.
  • The repainting of the entire arch, removing the old paint system, undertaking steel repairs and applying a new multi-coat system on to the bare steel.
  • The entire concrete road deck has been repaired, re-waterproofed and resurfaced.
  • Re-configuration of the deck into a single vehicle lane in either direction, together with dedicated cycle lane.This will allow the existing SJB footbridge to be solely for pedestrian use.
  • Both bridge approach structures (Widnes and Runcorn) have been refurbished and re-configured with single lane traffic and new, widened cycleway/footway verges.
  • Runcorn Approach Viaduct deck has been repaired, re-waterproofing and resurfaced and installed with new carriageway joints.
  • Widnes Approach Viaduct has been resurfaced with new carriageway joints.
  • The existing Runcorn Approach Viaduct West (connecting into the Trumpet Loop) has been demolished.

The Council has sought to open the SJB as soon as is possible, but any work undertaken on the bridge is complex due to its age, the uniqueness of the structure and the fact it is Grade II Listed. The final piece of work to do before the SJB can open to vehicles is to replace the safety system on the bridge’s edge, known as a parapet.

After demolition of Runcorn Approach Viaduct West (leading to Trumpet Loop), it was discovered that the remaining 75m section of existing parapet fixings, normally hidden from view, were corroded beyond repair. The new system must be fully certified and comply with current design standards.  Locations where the new system will be installed need to be cut out of the structure and widened to allow the new fixings to have significant strength and adhere to current standards.

As a critical health and safety matter, the SJB cannot be opened up to vehicles until it is completed. The work will take in the region of 12 weeks. This means that the SJB will not re-open to vehicles until February next year.

The Council would like to apologise for this delay, but given the health and safety issues, there is no alternative but to keep the closure to vehicles in place. To reiterate, the bridge will remain open to pedestrians and cyclists throughout this period.

MGCB Service Update

The week ending 17 May was the busiest for
traffic across the Mersey Gateway Bridge since the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown
began back in March. An extra 45,000 vehicles crossed the bridge compared to
the previous week.

New data shows that the traffic level at the
height of the lockdown was less than a third of the typical pre-lockdown number
of vehicles flowing across the bridge between Runcorn and Widnes.

However, whilst the past week has been the
busiest since 16 March, overall traffic is still at less than half of
pre-lockdown levels.

Traffic has dropped across all vehicle
classes, though the new figures shared by bridge operator merseyflow do show
how traffic patterns have varied across different vehicle types over the past
two months.

  • The quietest week was week commencing 6th
    April when just 154,000 vehicles crossed the Mersey, compared to a typical
    pre-lockdown average of almost 500,000 journeys.
  • Class 4 vehicles – HGVs and other large
    vehicles – went from around 7% of daily traffic up to 13% of daily traffic at
    the height of the lockdown, before reducing back to their current figure of 10%.
  • Halton residents, Blue Badge holders and
    registered customers have all significantly reduced travel as a result of the
    lockdown.
  • Motorcyclists have taken advantage of the
    lockdown easing and better weather, with the past week showing the highest
    number of motorcyclists crossing the bridge in a single week for several months
  • The number of PCNs issued reduced
    significantly and payment on time rates remained high at almost 98% during
    April and May.
  • A growing percentage of people paying for
    their journeys using the merseyflow quick pay app, which has now been downloaded
    over 26,000 times since it was launched last November.

A number of new features for the app are now
being tested and will be ready for roll-out within the next few weeks.

Tolls/charges remain in force on the bridge,
despite a number of urgent requests from Halton Borough Council, which have
been supported by merseyflow, to the UK Government to temporarily waive
tolls/charges during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UK Government has not agreed to this
request as it has maintained its stance that continuation of tolling/charging
on crossings is a matter that has to be considered in a national context.

Neil Conway, Chief Executive of merseyflow,
said: “These figures show just how much people across the north west have
reduced their travel during the lockdown. They will also act as a guide to how
much things are slowly getting ‘back to normal’ in terms of behaviour patterns
as the lockdown gradually eases. We’ve just finished the first week of things
being more relaxed, but it is clear that less people are staying at home as
there was an extra 45,000 journeys made last week.”

Mike Bennett, Managing Director of the Mersey
Gateway Crossings Board, said: “I think these figures show how responsible
people have been over the past two months in minimising non-essential journeys.
It also shows how the changing message from Government since 11th
May has certainly had an impact on traffic activity levels here in the north
west.”

Government refuses to suspend tolls on Mersey Gateway

Earlier this week, Halton Borough Council Leader, Cllr Rob Polhill announced the steps the Council was taking to suspend tolls/charges on the Mersey Gateway to support key workers in their fight to tackle COVID-19 – he explained that to do so, would require Government approval.

It is with deep regret that Halton Borough Council must now report that Government Ministers “have considered (the Council’s) request to suspend tolling on the Mersey Gateway bridge and have decided not to approve such a move…”

Responding to this decision Cllr Rob Polhill, Leader of Halton Council said: “We are deeply disappointed the Government has refused the Council’s request to suspend
tolls/charges on Mersey Gateway.”

“We believe this compromises our efforts locally to meet the challenges presented by COVID 19.”

“We also believe it penalises the very people we are relying on to keep us all safe – our NHS staff, our key workers and our volunteers, who will now be faced with ongoing payments and the requirement to pay their tolls/charge, thereby distracting them from their primary role which is to save lives.”

“We will continue to press Government to do the right thing – which is to allow the Council to suspend tolls/charges on Mersey Gateway for NHS workers, key workers and our volunteers.”

Coronavirus: merseyflow Walk-in Centre closing ‘until further notice’

In response to the latest Government advice on the COVID-19 outbreak, and in order to protect the wellbeing of its staff and customers, merseyflow will be closing its Walk-in Centre from 7pm on Tuesday 24 March 2020 until further notice.

Payments can be made remotely through the following channels: • www.merseyflow.co.uk • via the merseyflow quick pay app • by phoning 01928 878 878.

Online facilities such as the merseyflow website and the quick pay app will operate as normal. Customers may experience longer waiting times when phoning merseyflow due to an increase in calls and reduced staffing levels.

Merseyflow is also extending all Halton Resident and Blue Badge plans, which means customers with one of these plans can continue using it without needing to renew until further notice.

Customers whose plans were due to expire do not need to take any action and will not receive a renewal reminder, as their plan will simply continue providing them with unlimited crossings until further notice.

Neil Conway, Chief Executive of merseyflow, said: “These are exceptional circumstances which require exceptional measures. We will be closing the Walk-in Centre to protect the wellbeing of our staff and customers and we apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. We also recognise that a large number of Halton residents and Blue Badge holders come to the Walk-In-Centre to renew their plans, which is why we have extended all of these until further notice.”

Neil added: “We would like to thank our fantastic employees for their commitment and dedication during this difficult time. We look forward to seeing you all again as soon as it is safe for us to reopen the Walk-In Centre.”

To open an Merseyflow account, update account details, pay for a crossing, pay a penalty charge notice or appeal a penalty, please visit www.merseyflow.co.uk.

Merseyflow will continue to closely monitor the situation and adhere to the latest Government advice. For the most up to date information, please check merseyflow’s social media channels regularly:

https://www.facebook.com/merseyflowtolls/ • https://twitter.com/merseyflow

Latest Mersey Gateway statistics show highest ever on-time journey payment rate and annual 18.5% drop in PCN charges

December 2, 2019MerseylinkNews, Uncategorized

The
latest Mersey Gateway figures show a 18.5% drop in the number of Penalty Charge
Notices (PCNs) issued compared to the same period in 2018.

They also show the highest ever payment on time rate and record traffic levels using the Mersey Gateway Bridge between Runcorn and Widnes.

  • An 18.5% reduction in the number of PCNs
    issued

    compared to the same period last year (meaning 38,096 fewer PCNs were issued)
  • Journey numbers increasing by 3% compared to the same period
    last year up to a record high of 6.25 million journeys.
  • 97.3% of journeys were paid for on time
    (either through their account or by midnight the day after crossing)
    – this is the highest ever
    rate
  • July was the highest ever month (2.14 million
    crossings) for journeys made across the bridge

The
number of PCNs issued between July and September 2019 has fallen by 38,096
compared to the figure from the same period last year. This is an 18.5%
year-on-year drop in the number of PCNs issued, which means that more people
are paying on time for their crossing.

This
comes at a time when traffic levels using the bridge are at their highest ever
recorded, with 6.25 million journeys being made across the River Mersey in
Halton during the July – September 2019 period.

Neil
Conway, Chief Executive of merseyflow, said: “This has been our best ever
quarter. I am delighted to see the significant reduction in PCNs and an
all-time high in journeys paid for on time, particularly when the quarter recorded
the highest number of crossings made across the bridge.

He
added: “These statistics show that we are achieving our key objectives,
improving the pay on time rates for the users of the bridge, and as a
consequence of that reducing the number of Penalty Charge Notices issued. The
work we do to encourage people to register with us and pay on time is working,
and we will continue to look at new ways to make it quicker and easier for users
of the bridge to either register with us, or to pay their charge on time, as we
want to see the trend of reducing PCN numbers and increasing traffic levels
continue.”

Mike
Bennett, Managing Director of the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board, said: “It’s
great to see more people using the Mersey Gateway Bridge and less people
getting PCNs. We would much rather everyone paid on time or registered with
merseyflow. In an ideal world, we don’t want to issue any PCNs, so it is very
positive to see this 18.5% year-on-year reduction.”

He
added: “We’re now two years on from the bridge opening, so the ongoing increase
in traffic levels shows people are benefitting from quicker, easier and more
reliable journeys across the river. We know how important this reliability and
access is to residents, commuters and the business community, so our focus is
on maintaining that and improving the service wherever we can.”

The quarterly merseyflow dashboard provides a range of in-depth statistics and graphs which show information on the number of crossings made, average daily traffic, number of PCNs issued, payments made on time, total revenue and what percentage of this comes from PCNs.

The dashboard can be viewed at www.merseyflow.co.uk/stats

Halton Borough Council Mersey Link

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Mersey Gateway Project