Bridge launch ‘in weeks’
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.”