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Knight Architects’ Mersey Gateway Bridge opens


The 1km long cable-stayed bridge, conceived by Ramboll, CH2M and Knight Architects and part of a 9.5km highway corridor project, is now open to traffic

Situated between the towns of Widnes and Runcorn in the North West, the Mersey Gateway is one of the UK’s largest civil engineering and infrastructure projects. It is part of a scheme to provide significantly increased local and regional highway connectivity and to relieve congestion. The new route will form an essential link between the Merseyside area, North Wales and Cheshire, comprising a highway corridor with a 2.2km crossing of the River Mersey at its heart.

Halton Borough Council recognised the importance of good design quality from an early stage in the project, and appointed Knight Architects in 2006 as part of the client’s consultant team, developing a bridge design which would help deliver economic development while protecting and enhancing the environment.



Source: Merseylink

After an exhaustive consultation process including a CABE design review and successful public inquiry, the 2010 Transport and Works Act consent and three subsequent planning consents in 2012 defined the qualities of the final approved design, including the distinctive three-tower cable-stayed bridge with its lower central tower. 

The centrepiece of the new six-lane highway crossing is the 1,022m-long, multi-span cable-stayed bridge, spanning the Mersey estuary and the adjacent Manchester ship canal. The distinctive design comprises three singular pylons which vary in height, with the outer pylons being 125m and 110m above river bed level, balanced by a shorter, central 80m tower. The clear spans between the towers vary between 294m and 318m, whereas their side spans reach out up to 205m, while the concrete deck is carried from a central cable plane.

The unusual use of three pylons instead of the classic paired configuration results from height restrictions prescribed by the nearby John Lennon Airport and limited locations where supports could be placed in the sensitive tidal estuary environment.

Architect’s view

Mersey Gateway is a vitally important infrastructure project for the North West as well as providing a distinctive new landmark for the region. It is also a great example of a flexible model of delivery which demonstrates that good quality need not be expensive and aesthetics need not be sacrificed when the economic climate cools. Having been an influential part of this extraordinary project for more than a decade, we are delighted to see it open to the public.

Martin Knight, director, Knight Architects

Project data

Client Mersey Gateway Crossings Board for Halton Borough Council
Technical advisors Ramboll, CH2M, Knight Architects
Construction joint-venture FCC, Samsung, Kier
Design joint-venture COWI, Fhecor, URS, Eptisa, Dissing+Weitling
Lighting design Speirs & Major 


Readers' comments (3)

  • So is the varied height of the pylons - as well as the need for three rather than two - a result of the restrictions due to the airport runway flight path?

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  • Bit sad that this massive bit of Engineering is being attributed almost solely to the Architect. No 'Engineers View', no admission that they might have had quite a bit to do with the design.. just a name lost under 'Technical Advisors'....

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  • Robert, the new bridge spans the Mersey Estuary however it is actually the Manchester Ship Canal, immediately to the south of the river, which is the navigational clearance and the high point of the crossing.  The two outer towers are the same height above deck level but, as the bridge deck climbs gently from north to south, the southern tower is taller.  I hope this helps clear up any ambiguity. 

    Andy, like all major infrastructure projects, the end product is a huge team effort - the client technical advisor role undertaken by Ramboll and CH2M (both engineering consultants) with Knight Architects and the contractor's designer role led by COWI with FHECOR, Eptisa and AECOM (all engineering consultants) and Dissing & Weitling Architects. The superb architectural lighting was designed by Speirs & Major.

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