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New Mersey Gateway Bridge

emovis

Award Category: 
Private Sector Innovation
Award Year: 
2018

Overview

The New Mersey Gateway Bridge is an innovative response to a seemingly impossible situation faced by many local transport authorities around the world. Congestion on the aging local bridge had reached dangerous levels, with traffic volumes that risked community access to essential services on either side of the River Mersey. With no government funding available, the community knew it would never have the funds to complete the project unassisted. The Silver Jubilee Bridge over the River Mersey, built in 1961, constitutes a vital link for the residents of the Halton borough. Fifty-five years later, the bridge was approaching 10 times its intended traffic capacity, with daily peaks of up to 85,000 users in late 2017. The community wanted a second bridge across the River Mersey. But funding from the national government was denied due to scarce public funding resources.

With the responsibility pushed back to the borough council, it fell to a community of 125,000, with an annual budget of just over $130 million, to fund a $800 billion infrastructure project. To get the mobility it needed, the community accepted tolling on the existing bridge as well as the new one, after traffic modeling indicated that revenue from the new structure alone would not cover capital and operating costs. Given a choice between tolling both bridges or having no new bridge at all, the borough council overwhelmingly supported the project, as did local businesses and most residents. Halton needed an experienced toll service provider that could capture and channel the community’s vision. emovis met that challenge with an innovative tolling solution that earned community support, while delivering the revenues the borough needed to meet its contractual obligations.

Objectives

The primary objective of the New Mersey Gateway was to relieve relentless congestion on a local network where simply expanding the existing bridge would not have been sufficient. The new kilometer-long, cable-stayed bridge has three lanes in each direction, with a toll-free bypass for local traffic in Runcorn town center. The key operating principles for the project included:

Accountability 

A 100% in-house customer care service, including telephone and walk-in centers, allows the operator to constantly improve customer satisfaction while adjusting to rapidly changing consumer behaviors, particularly on the part of the Millennial generation.

Trust and Transparency

An innovative, thermal-based traffic auditing system provides local authorities with independent confirmation that all toll revenue is duly collected and properly transferred to them.

Freedom

A flexible tolling solution offers users a menu of options, including RFID sticker tags, a pay-by-plate option, and microwave tags.

The bridge opened on October 14, 2017 and quickly became a preferred route for more than 70,000 users per day. The project also funded the refurbishment of the original Silver Jubilee Bridge, while keeping that historic structure in public hands. The refurbishment included conversion of one lane into a toll-free pedestrian and bicycle route that offers residents a safer, more sustainable option for crossing the river. The system is efficient enough that local residents can buy unlimited access to both bridges for a modest annual fee, with free access for users with disabilities.

Results

The project delivers stable, long-term toll revenue of about $70 million annually that has enabled a small borough council to reduce traffic congestion and plan for future population growth. Users save as much as an hour or more on their regular commutes. Public acceptance of the project was overwhelming, with more than 85% of potential local users pre-registered by the time the new bridge opened.

  • The toll operator emphasizes excellence and continuous improvement in customer service, with 230 verification and administrative staff in its call center and walk-in facilities available to local users.
  • Prior to launch, the project team established MerseyFlow as a strong, widely-recognized brand that supported an aggressive and successful pre-marketing strategy.
  • A competitive public-private partnership (PPP) tendering process produced a £250-million cost saving compared to the original engineering estimate.
  • Construction emphasized local hiring, with more than 5,000 employees devoting five million person-hours to engineering and construction.