Mersey Gateway bridge takes shape

Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group

Home » Mersey Gateway bridge takes shape

Published: 22nd December 2016

This Article was Written by: Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group


This week, the gargantuan MSS ‘Webster’, a bridge-building machine measuring 157 metres long by 8 metres high by 22 metres at its widest point, cast the second span on the southern approach to the Mersey Gateway Bridge, spanning the river between Runcorn and Widnes.

The casting of the second reinforced bridge span is another landmark in the ambitious £600m project, rapidly taking shape and changing the landscape of the estuary forever. 160 truckloads of concrete were brought in to fill the 1,155m3 mould for the central section of the approach road. It took the massive Webster machine just 24 hours to fill the mould.

This is the second of eight spans to be constructed for the approach road to the Mersey Gateway Bridge; it will carry traffic through Runcorn, 25 metres above the Manchester Ship Canal, then onto the new toll bridge.

In 2014, Halton Borough Council and key stakeholders Kier, Samsung C&T and FCC, and partners Macquarie Capital , BBGI, and FCC Construcción, awarded the 30-year contract to design, build, finance and operate the project to the Merseylink Consortium.

Marc Heaps, Operations Manager for the Merseylink Consortium, said: “This was one of the more challenging pours on the project as working above the ship canal required extra planning and a change in logistics. We couldn’t place the concrete pumps underneath the machine or they’d have been under water. Instead we used additional pumps on top to give us access to the concrete.”

MSS Webster

A giant steel machine, the Moveable Scaffold System (MSS) weighs in at an estimated 1,700 tonnes. It was christened ‘Webster’ by local schoolchildren from Halton who won a competition to name the important piece of bridge-building equipment. The children were inspired by local engineer John James Webster who was responsible for the construction of the Widnes Transporter Bridge.

Working alongside Webster is a 280-tonne wing traveller machine; this is being used to construct the outer lanes of the six-lane approach road. In another feat of engineering the wing traveller was recently lifted into place using the UK’s biggest crane boom!

New Year commuter misery

While key features of the bridge are in place and with more than 10,200 tonnes of tarmac laid on the newly refurbished Central Expressway, there is still much to be done to meet the autumn 2017 completion date. Travellers through Runcorn are in for a three months of road closures in the New Year.

Road closures will begin on 3 January on the Northbound Central Expressway in Runcorn, between Halton Brow and Bridgewater, for a period of three months. Diversions will be in place with plans for the Daresbury Expressway slip road to be reopened before closures commence.

Another three-month lane closure is scheduled on Weston Point Expressway southbound between Rocksavage Interchange and Weston Point Junction starting on 6 January.

The Merseylink Consortium have announced several other road changes, including various off-peak and overnight lane closures:

From 15 December: trail switch from westbound to eastbound lane closure Ditton Road, Widnes, ongoing;

  • 3 January – 31 March, 09.30 – 15:30: northbound Weston Point Expressway between M56 Junction 12 and Weston Point Junction;
  • 4 January – 3 February: southbound Weston Point Expressway between Weston Point Junction and Clifton Footbridge;
  • 13-16 January, 20-23 January, 19:30-05:00: weekend road closures on Victoria Road and Waterloo Road in both directions between Hutchinson Street and Ashley Way;
  • 16-19 January: overnight road closures on Victoria Road and Waterloo Road in both directions between Hutchinson Street and Ashley Way.

The Mersey Gateway is just one of three ongoing bridge construction projects currently underway in the UK. Together the Mersey Gateway, the Queensferry Crossing in Scotland and the New Wear Crossing in Sunderland, are being constructed in an effort to improve local and regional infrastructure.

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