UK bridge PPP gets £470m from government

The government unblocked the funding – which will be used to finance land acquisition and 26.5 years of availability payments – after the project achieved savings of £30m. The new bridge over the river Mersey will cost £600m to build.

The UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) has approved a £470 million (€545 million; $726 million) funding package to help finance the construction, operation and maintenance of a new bridge over the river Mersey, in the Liverpool region, allowing local authorities to start procuring the public-private partnership (PPP) project.

The project – known as the Mersey Gateway Bridge – should start construction in 2013 with a scheduled opening in 2016. It will cost £600 million just to build the bridge, the DfT said in a statement.

Of the government’s £470 million contribution, just over £385 million will be used to support the funding of 26.5 years of availability payments. Availability payments are public contributions paid to the private sector in exchange for making an asset available in good condition. 

The remaining government grant will be used to help fund land acquisition. The grant money was only forthcoming after local authority Halton Borough Council managed to cut the project’s cost by £30 million, or 5 percent of its value. 

While the private sector will be remunerated via availability payments, the new bridge will be tolled – at about £1.50 per car – with the winning team to be responsible for managing toll collection.

The Mersey Gateway Bridge will cross the river Mersey between Runcorn and Widnes. It is located 1.5 miles from an existing bridge – the Silver Jubilee Bridge, also tolled – which will now be restricted to certain types of traffic.