No an­swers on ‘ex­tra’ £500m cost of bridge

Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News - - Front Page - BY OLIVER CLAY oliver.clay@trin­i­tymir­ @Oliv­er­ClayRWWN

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

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