The government has confirmed it will provide £470 million towards the £590 million construction of Knight Architects’ Mersey Gateway bridge following years of delays
Construction of the new bridge - proposals for which were first unveiled in 2006 - is now expected to begin in 2013. According to the AJ’s sister title Construction News, the six-lane toll bridge linking Runcon and Widnes could open to traffic in 2016.
Martin Knight of Knight Architects said: ‘[We] had been encouraged by recent comments from both George Osborne and David Cameron that the future of the project was assured, however it is exciting for it to be formally given the green light.
‘The project as a whole will transform transport connections in the north-west and will provide a stimulus for regeneration in and around Runcorn and Widnes, which is clearly a good thing, and the Mersey Gateway bridge itself will be the next major bridge structure to be built in England.’
The construction cost, including land, is around £600 million which the Department for Transport will support with a mixture of capital grant and continued revenue funding for PFI payments
The project was granted planning permission in December 2010 and a consultation was launched by the Mersey Gateway Project through Halton Borough Council.
As part of the huge project the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge will become tolled as well.
Chancellor George Osborne confirmed in a letter to Halton council in October 2010 that the government would contribute £80 million to the project over the next four years to assist with land acquisition and project development costs.
The project will need to be part-financed by private finance initiative credits and directly from the private sector, using toll revenue from a 30-year contract to pay off a loan.
Transport secretary Philip Hammond said: ‘In response to the government’s request to reduce costs, Halton Borough Council have achieved savings of around £30m on the original proposed cost - meaning the scheme will offer better value to the taxpayer, whilst bringing vital improvements to the region. Further cost savings are expected through a competitive procurement process.’
Mersey Gateway project director Steve Nicholson added: ‘This agreement represents the best possible deal for the public purse and means that we can focus on delivering a project that will bring benefits to local people, commuters and businesses from across the region.’
This announcement allows Halton Borough Council to start the procurement process for the project which will take around two years. Final approval enabling construction to begin will be subject to successful completion of the procurement process.
The Department for Transport will provide £86 million in capital grant towards land and remediation and up to £14.55 million per year in long term revenue support for 26.5 years from opening.
The approved scheme will have a 1000m length span, with three towers of up to a maximum of 140m in height in the River Mersey. It will also include link roads from the existing highway network.
Construction cost is expected to be £589 million (including land purchase and remediation)
Tolls will be levied on the new bridge and the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge with toll levels expected to be similar to those seen on the Mersey Tunnels (currently £1.50 per car).
Both bridges will be operated by a Mersey Gateway Crossings Board - an independent subsidiary of Halton Borough Council.
A private sector operator will build, finance and operate the bridge (inc managing toll collection) in return for an annual payment from the Crossings Board.
The Crossings Board will raise the revenue to cover the annual charge from the tolls paid by those using the bridge and will also benefit from the grant from DfT.