The Mersey Gateway

The Mersey Gateway completed. Image courtesy of Merseylink

The Mersey Gateway completed. Image courtesy of Merseylink

Ramboll has played a significant role in the Mersey Gateway project, the central feature of the significant highway improvements between the M56 and Speke Road. It is a new six-lane cable-stayed tolled bridge across the Mersey Estuary between Runcorn and Widnes.  Government funding support was announced in 2011, with Merseylink Consortium announced as preferred bidder in June 2013.  Financial close was reached in early 2014 with construction works commencing in earnest in April of that year.  The bridge was opened to the public in October 2017, a mere 3.5 years after construction started.

More than a bridge

Construction works has created a number of jobs for local population as well as providing numerous apprenticeships and training opportunities and is expected to create over 4,000 jobs in the region (through direct employment, regeneration activity and inward investment) while improving journey times and reliability for millions of people.  It is an integral part of the local Sustainable Transport Strategy and is expected to attract massive inward investment and regeneration within the region and significantly within the Borough of Halton. The Mersey Gateway has been constructed under a DBFO (design, build, finance & operate) contract and is financed via a hybrid of the Public Private Partnership/Private Finance Initiative (PPP/PFI) funding streams, with the Department for Transport providing up to £270m of funding.

The scheme comprises of 9.2km of highway improvements, modification and reprioritisation of existing junctions plus the new bridge, to provide a free flow route between A562 (Speke Road) in Widnes and Junction 11 of the M56 in Runcorn.  When the new crossing opened, the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge (SJB) crossing was closed for what is expected to be a period of 12 months for the repair and modification works which will return it to local use. Both crossings will ultimately be tolled, and as it's a DBFO project, the main contract includes tolling operations and maintenance for all except the SJB, under a bespoke contract, the Demand Management Participation Agreement (DMPA).

Ramboll’s role in the Mersey Gateway project
Ramboll has supported this ambitious project since 2001.  In our capacity as lead technical consultant, we helped to obtain funding approval for the Mersey Gateway project and have provided a suite of expertise including Route Selection, Construction Methods Investigation, Engineering Design, Environmental Impacts Assessment and transport assessments, remediation, the provision of Expert Witness services and Technical Advice during the Competitive Dialogue procurement process to support Halton Borough Council’s negotiations with the three international bidding consortia and the preferred bidder’s design development under a Design Development Agreement.  This initial commission extended to the project’s financial close.  The bespoke contract for the Mersey Gateway Project was formally awarded to the preferred bidder, the Merseylink consortium.

In 2014 Halton Borough Council set up the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board Ltd, a special purpose vehicle which has the delegated authority to deliver the Mersey Gateway Bridge project and to administer and oversee the construction and maintenance of the new tolled crossings, including the tolling of the existing SJB.

Throughout the construction stage Ramboll continued to provide a range of services under a new commission as part of a Technical and Contractual Advisor team composed of CH2M, Ramboll, IBI & Knight Architects, to support the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board with the technical and contractual administration of the project and to help it fulfil its contractual obligations.  As part of this commission, we have provided technical staff for both the Core (site based) and Non-Core (remote) elements of the Technical Advisor team, reviewing and advising upon design submissions, Departure from Standard applications, construction works assurance and statutory issues in relation to Statutory Utilities, Structures, Geotechnics, Highways, Environment and Contaminated Land.

During the review process, over 3,000 technical submissionswere formally reviewed by the Technical and Contractual Advisor team, in addition to the review of numerous informal submissions, over 70 Departure from Standard and Project Company Changes and weekly monitoring and auditing activities. 

Remediation project
Prior to starting the main works contract, a number of advance works contracts were procured in order to mitigate programme risk, including advance diversions of statutory apparatus and an advance remediation contract. Ramboll was responsible for managing the advance works contracts.  Below is a closer look at the remediation works that were carried out prior to financial close. Over the course of 13 months we recovered almost 17 tonnes of chlorinated solvent contamination from beneath the ground.

The remediation project has attracted numerous awards, including the 2014 North West CIHT Best Practice Award, the 2014 Ground Engineering Sustainability Award and the 2014 CIHT Technological Application Award where judges commented, “The judges were impressed by the innovative remediation process, which recovered a substantial volume of technically challenging solvents, using in-situ technologies rather than bulk excavation…The project was delivered at a fixed cost, on time and within budget, with close stakeholder engagement being maintained at all times.” 

Early in 2018 the Mersey Gateway picked up a special award from the ICE. The ICE said "In recognition of ICE's bicentenary and a phenomenal feat of engineering which has changed the local skyline, the Mersey Gateway project is awarded the ICE 200 Special Award."

Project timeline
1994 – Mersey Gateway Group formed
2001 – Ramboll UK (Gifford) appointed as Lead Technical Consultant
2006 – Project received initial approval from the Department of Transport
2008 – Orders and Applications submitted
2009 – Public Inquiry held
2010 – General Election in May
2010 – Comprehensive spending review in October
2011 – Funding Approval and further planning consultation
2011 – Prequalification commenced
2012 – Competitive dialogue process commenced
2013 – Merseylink consortium appointed as the preferred bidder for the Project in June
2014 – The project reached financial close and work on the Mersey Gateway commenced
2017 – Construction of ‘Project Road’ completed and Permit To Use (PTU) achieved in October

Key players in the Mersey Gateway

  • Merseylink Consortium; Macquarie Capital (Australia), BBGI & FCC Construcción S.A.
  • Merseylink Construction Joint Venture; Kier Infrastructure and Overseas Limited, Samsung C&T Corporation, FCC Construcción S.A.
  • Mersylink Design Joint Venture; Aecom/Cowi/Fhecor/Eptis
  • Toll Operator; Emovis

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