No answers on ‘extra’ £500m cost of bridge
THE team behind the Mersey Gateway project has remained tight-lipped as to why the bridge will cost £500m more than Scotland’s Queensferry Crossing despite being smaller.
A spokeswoman for the Merseylink consortium said the two schemes’ financing and construction were ‘vastly different’ and could not be compared.
The Mersey Gateway project, connecting Runcorn and Widnes, is due to cost £1.86bn over the 30-year course of the private finance initiative (PFI) contract whereas the Queensferry Crossing is due to cost £1.35bn.
Whereas funding for the Mersey Gateway depended largely on PFI investment that will have to be repaid as debt via tolls charged to motorists, the Queensferry Crossing across the Firth Of Forth near Edinburgh was funded by direct taxation via the Scottish Government.
As well as being the tallest bridge in the UK, the Queensferry Crossing is longer at 2.7km long compared to the Mersey Gateway at 2.1km, making the Scottish structure the longest freestanding balanced cantilever in the world.
Including the full length of the link roads, the Scottish bridge is 13.7 miles long, more than double the Mersey Gateway’s 5.9-mile stretch.
Keith Brown, Scottish National Party (SNP) member of the Scottish Parliament, pointed out to Holyrood colleagues in June that the less expen- sive of the two bridges was also the larger.
Motorists will not have to pay tolls to cross the Queensferry Crossing while drivers who do not qualify for the Mersey Gateway free crossings discount scheme still face paying £1,080 a year even if they have registered for a monthly pass supposed discount scheme.
A spokesman for Transport Scotland said its bridge budget had been subject to proper scrutiny.
He said the main contract for the bridge and approach roads was £790m, with the rest spent on the M9 junction 1A upgrade and the ‘Fife Intelligent Transport System’.
The frequently asked questions of the Queensferry Crossing, published when the project was estimated to cost between £1.7bn and £2.3bn and therefore before massive savings were found, said a Scottish Parliament briefing paper published in 2010 said it was difficult to compare bridge project costings, but said at that time the Queensferry Crossing was deemed to be ‘on a par’ with projects including the Mersey crossing.
A Merseylink spokeswoman said: “The full commercial details around the funding of the two schemes are not in the public domain. ●
“H “However, we are aware that the two schemes are vastly different in terms of their financing, construction and delivery and for all of these reasons it is not appropriate to compare them on this basis and it is not appropriate for the Mersey Gateway project to comment any further.”
SNP MSP Keith Brown