The UK Government has authorised the construction of two major new river crossings (bridges), one over the Firth of Forth to help ease traffic problems between Fife and Edinburgh. The second is across the Mersey connecting Widnes and Runcorn.
Both bridges look very impressive and graceful, both bridges will be marvels of engineering, both bridges will be expensive. That though is where the similarities end.
The bridge over the Forth, in Scotland, is being paid for by the UK government, (i.e. from taxes mainly generated in England) and will be free to cross.
The bridge over the Mersey, in England, is being part funded by the UK government and partly from PFI input. This means that it will be a toll bridge and you will have to pay to cross it.
“That is ok!” the people cry, “We will use the old bridge and ignore the toll bridge just like we ignore the M6 Toll!”
They have thought of that, the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge will be improved and then made into a Toll bridge.
Cameron declares that “we are all in this together” and that he wants a fairer society!
The tory/Lib Dem idea of fairness it that people in Scotland get a new bridge that they can cross for free but the people in England not only get a new bridge that they have to pay to cross but they have to start paying to cross an existing bridge that has been free for over thirty years since it was built.
The following is from the Mersey Gateway website
(If you go on this site you will see that they seem to be rubbing salt into wounds as it has adverts promoting a Scottish development agency.)
“Gateway bridge congestion charges
The existing SJB and the new bridge will be tolled when work on the Mersey Gateway project is complete. The tolling of the SJB is proposed to reduce traffic congestion by about 80%. Tolling will also reduce traffic jams due to the expanded capacity of the new bridge.
“The tolling of the SJB is proposed to reduce traffic congestion by about 80%.”
The cost of the Mersey Gateway project is currently estimated to be £431m. Investment will be made in land purchase, construction and allied works. The allocated budget includes £200m for the new bridge construction, £100m for road improvements, £90m for land acquisition and £41m for further refinements.
The UK Government will fund £86m of the total costs, and the remaining will be provided through a public sector operating grant – Private Finance Initiative (PFI) credits and private finance.
Construction funds by the private concessionaire, about 77%, will be repaid in the form of toll revenue for a concession period of 30 years. The government will contribute £123m in PFI credits over the concession period to maintain lower toll costs.”