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For whom the bridge tolls

New Runcorn bridge set to make £150,000 a day

Written by . Published on June 21st 2013.


For whom the bridge tolls
 

The new crossing between Runcorn and Widnes moved a stage closer this week with the announcement a Spanish-led consortium has won the race to build and run it.

Nobody who has queued for hours in the creaking Silver Jubilee Bridge, also known as the world’s biggest bird perch for its starling gatherings, will question the urgent need for a new crossing.

The current single-span arch was opened in 1961 with a capacity of 9,000 vehicles a day. An expensive but modest widening scheme increased this to 15,000 vehicles a day, but today up to 90,000 cars, lorries and buses thunder or crawl across the bridge, depending on circumstances.

Starlings Over The Runcorn BrodgeTolls too on the world's biggest bird perch

The bridge is the umbilical chord within Halton, linking the twin towns of Widnes and Runcorn which were forced into an arranged marriage in 1974. Because civic facilities are spread across the borough there is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing over the bridge.

The new bridge, due to open in the first half of 2017, will be a striking andmark costing £600m and will be one of the top 100 urban projects anywhere in the world this decade.

Then you get down to brass tacks, or rather money. 

Motorists navigating this six-lane super bridge, known as the Mersey Gateway, will have to pay a toll. No problem! We’ll use the old bridge. No you won’t – that will be tolled as well to prevent freebie crossings.

The talk is of tolls between Runcorn and Widnes mirroring Mersey Tunnel prices, though that is not yet set in sandstone.

It’s not the fault of the council whose hands were tied by a government unwilling to stump up the cost of what is, after all, part of the national road network. They didn’t impose a charge to cross Thelwall Viaduct just up the road.

The only way of funding the Gateway is with some government dosh, but the bulk of the money will come from future tolls during the 30 year lifespan of the consortium.

Churchill

Who can say what will happen in the middle of this century when the contract period ends?

It was after all Winston Churchill who, as the then Minister of Transport, said Birkenhead tunnel tolls would be removed when the debt was paid.

The hope within the corridors of power in Halton is that local residents will be allowed free or cut-price crossing fees.

But there is a word of caution from Halton Labour MP Derek Twigg. He says the intention at the moment is that any profits from tolls will wing their way to the Treasury, rather than locally.

Just looking at simple maths, the bridge could well be a money spinner. Assuming a toll of £2 or just under, and a prediction of 80,000 drivers a day making the crossing, income from tolls could reach around £150,000 A DAY!

Probably much more as HGVs will pay extra. Over the 30 year “span” of the contract period, the tolls would have earned £1.5 billion – and that is assuming the tolls remain unaltered. More likely the earnings over that period will probably be at least be double.

Derek Twigg has vowed to fight the battle in Westminster to win free or low cost travel for his constituents.

Halton, with its much needed bridge, is likely to become the first town in England where people have to pay to move from one part to another.

It’s a far cry from the famous monologue of the Runcorn ferryman, immortalized by Stanley Holloway in “Per tuppence, per person, per trip”.

Mersey Gateway will be tolledMersey Gateway will be tolled

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11 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousJune 21st 2013.

Why can't we have a bridge somewhere sensible? Like Liverpool to the anywhere on the Wirral (well not West Kirby obviously)?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Absinthe & TurksJuly 31st 2013.

A pedestrian bridge would be brilliant and liberate people who have missed the last train from black cabs going through the Tunnel. My last such trip, easily less than five miles cost an unbelieveable £19 and that was midweek! Subtracting the £2.20 for the tunnel (and the taxi's return trip) the fare still came to an astounding £16.80. I'd have happily walked it if the option had been available.

Darren ForsterJune 21st 2013.

Oh well charging for either Runcorn bridge, I'll just stop using it, when seeing friends in Sankey I normally go through the bridge into Warrington, but in future I'll just go over the Thelwall viaduct, or even pay 12p to go across Warburton instead because I guess this super bridge certainly won't be as cheap as the Warbie bridge.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Darren ForsterJune 21st 2013.

and I guess the charge will be 24/7 unlike the Warbie bridge that stops at about 10pm. I can see this being another "M6 Toll" or Severn Crossing we pay enough for roads with road tax without funding it further to cross water.

AnonymousJune 22nd 2013.

It' more than likely that the traffic using both M6 and M62 will increase tenfold, it will also impact on the A49 at Warrington and junction 20 south west of Grappenhall. It will also coincide with proposed eastern link from the M6 to the M56. Croft interchange isn't great at peak times now, so it looks as if we're in for some fun.

Leon KayJune 23rd 2013.

WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW IS WHY?

AnonymousJune 24th 2013.

What's the betting councillors and officials will all be given free passes.

AnonymousJune 24th 2013.

Does any person know if it will affect the bus routes, other than increasing the number of passengers? Will the toll on both bridges be the same as each other? Geography would dictate that Runcorn traffic use the Silver Jubilee bridge, through traffic will use the new bridge, other than traffic from the west, traffic going west will use the old bridge. I wont bother I haven't got a clue where I'm going, I don't like Cheshire Oaks anyhow.

RobertJuly 17th 2013.

Might be a good excuse to up Mersey Tunnel tolls to comparable levels?

AnonymousJuly 31st 2013.

the toll road round birminham you have to pay for why dont you have to pay for the existing m6 and the bridge over to skye in scotland you had to pay for was bought off the operators by the goverment and is now free to cross so why the runcorn bridge is the 2 bridges in warrington next for tolling

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