Bridge launch ‘in weeks’

Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News - - Front Page - BY OLIVER CLAY oliver.clay@trin­i­tymir­ror.com @oliv­er­clayRWWN

THE Mersey Gate­way bridge could open in a few weeks time. Merseylink con­struc­tion con­sor­tium said traf­fic could be us­ing the cross­ing by mid-Septem­ber and no later than mi­dOc­to­ber, weather per­mit­ting.

A spokesman said a de­fin­i­tive date will be given around five days ahead of open­ing.

He said the project is on track ahead of time and un­der bud­get fol­low­ing three and a half years of build­ing works that have in­volved a ma­jor re­design of the Widnes and Run­corn road net­work to ac­com­mo­date the bridge and link it to the M56 mo­tor­way and Mersey­side in­clud­ing the M62.

Project back­ers are re­main­ing tight-lipped, how­ever, over who will have the hon­our of declar­ing the bridge open, de­spite this week’s an­nounce­ment that The Queen and Prince Philip will be at­tend­ing the launch of the Queens­ferry Cross­ing in Scot­land on Au­gust 30.

The 1,000m Mersey Gate­way bridge is the cen­tre­piece of over­all project, which cov­ers around nine kilo­me­tres of high­ways works and junc­tion in­stal­la­tions.

When the bridge is ready, it will open to traf­fic at mid­night on its open­ing day af­ter the Sil­ver Ju­bilee Bridge, more com­monly known as the Run­cornWidnes bridge, closes just be­fore­hand.

Hal­ton Bor­ough Council is to cel­e­brate the event with a fire­works dis­play from the new bridge.

Tolls will come into force as soon as the Mersey Gate­way opens.

The bridge will use a free flow tolling sys­tem with­out toll booths, which is in­tended to keep traf­fic mov­ing quickly.

An au­to­matic num­ber plate recog­ni­tion sys­tem will iden­tify ve­hi­cles and cross ref­er­ence them with wind­screen- mounted Merseyflow stick­ers to charge the rel­e­vant driver.

Any­one who does not pay by mid­night the day ● af­ter they cross will re­ceive a penalty charge.

Un­reg­is­tered driv­ers will not be able to pay there and then when cross­ing, and will have to pay ei­ther on­line at www. merseyflow.co.uk, by phone on 01928 878 878, at the walk-in cen­tre at Howard Court in Manor Park in Run­corn or by us­ing the Pay­zone pay­ments ser­vice.

Merseylink has urged any­one not al­ready reg­is­tered to do so at www. merseyflow.co.uk as soon as pos­si­ble to make sure they re­ceive their ve­hi­cle iden­ti­fi­ca­tion sticker in time.

The Sil­ver Ju­bilee Bridge will be closed for around 12 months of ma­jor re­fur­bish­ment work, but will re­main open to cy­clists and pedes­tri­ans dur­ing this time.

It will also be tolled when it re-opens.

Merseylink’s spokesman said a year of land­scap­ing and other work re­main to be done af­ter the Mersey Gate­way bridge opens in­clud­ing re­mov­ing the tem­po­rary tres­tle bridge across the river, plant­ing of trees and shrubs along the route and the re­in­state­ment of the salt­marsh on both sides of the river.

Hugh O’Con­nor, Merseylink gen­eral manager, said: “All along we said we’d be open­ing in au­tumn 2017 and it is great to be able to keep that prom­ise.

“We’ll up­date ev­ery­one with a firmer date as we get closer to open­ing but we’re con­fi­dent that we will open by mid-Oc­to­ber at the lat­est.

“Much of our fi­nal work is weather de­pen­dent, but we will be able to give a de­fin­i­tive date around five days ahead of open­ing.”

He added: “I’d like to thank ev­ery­one who drives through the lo­cal area for their pa­tience over the past three and half years and must pay trib­ute to ev­ery­one who has worked tire­lessly on the new bridge and on the road net­work and ap­proach roads across Hal­ton.”

Cllr Rob Pol­hill, Hal­ton Bor­ough Council leader, said: “This is ex­cel­lent news.

“The con­trac­tors and all in­volved in the con­struc­tion ef­fort are do­ing a phe­nom­e­nal job to de­liver this bridge on time.

“The Mersey Gate­way Project is an in­cred­i­ble feat of engi­neer­ing and will be a land­mark for our re­gion for years to come.

“We are al­ready see­ing its im­pact as a cat­a­lyst for re­gen­er­a­tion and eco­nomic in­vest­ment in the area and it will mean that driv­ers of 27m ve­hi­cles ev­ery year have quicker, eas­ier and more re­li­able jour­neys across the Mersey.”

Hugh O’Con­nor

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