Tower Road, between Birkenhead and Wallasey, is reopening to the travelling public at 4pm this afternoon as work to replace the lifting bridge over the docks has concluded.
The replacement of the ‘A’ Bridge was the second part of the £6 million infrastructure project on Tower Road that also saw a new ‘C’ Bridge successfully installed between March and June last year.
Pedestrians, cyclists and motorists have faced months of frustration as the project to replace the ‘A’ Bridge ran into a couple of unavoidable delays since the turn of the year.
It reopens this afternoon, immediately upon the successful conclusion of the testing phase.
Cllr Stuart Whittingham, Cabinet member for Highways and Infrastructure, said: “We know that this day has been a long time coming and that many residents have suffered months of additional inconvenience having to take the diversion routes for longer than was initially anticipated.
"That is why we wanted to just get it open at the earliest possible opportunity - no fanfare, no ribbons - we wanted people moving along Tower Road again.
“We can only offer our apologies for the delays. On such a complex engineering project, unforeseen issues were always likely, but I am assured that our contractors have done everything they could to address them as quickly and effectively as possible. I understand this is of little consolation to the many people who have had to endure longer journey times, but it has been unavoidable.”
Cllr Whittingham added: “One of our most important 2020 pledges is to have a local transport infrastructure that is fit for the future and this project, which has seen both the ‘A’ and ‘C’ bridges replaced, is a big part of that.
“The new bridges will bring improvements to our road network, not just for motorists but also for cyclists and pedestrians. They will help us to grow and develop the local economy, particularly around the Twelve Quays area and the Wirral Waters project.”
The replacement of the two bridges was essential. The old bridges had many outdated features, including height and weight restrictions, and were requiring more frequent and costly maintenance works to keep them functioning. If the rate of deterioration had been allowed to continue the route would very soon have become completely unsuitable for HGVs.
Cllr Whittingham added: “With Tower Road now fully open again, we will see that the project – lengthy and frustrating though it has been - will bring long-lasting benefits to the local area, residents and the economy.”
Work on the ‘C’ bridge began at the end of March 2017, with Tower Road being closed to through traffic from the Birkenhead side, but open at the Wallasey side to allow access to the Stena Line terminal. Pedestrians and cyclists were still able to use Tower Road due to a temporary footbridge.
When the ‘C’ bridge was completed on schedule at the end of June 2017, Tower Road reopened from the Birkenhead end to allow access to the ferry terminal over the new bridge while the ‘A’ bridge closed and work on its replacement got underway. A shuttle bus was provided to take pedestrians and cyclists along the diversion route as the temporary footbridge also had to be removed.
Having originally been scheduled to conclude in January, the initial delay to the project completion was caused by the discovery of an obstruction behind the dock walls – only uncovered during excavation work – which meant the permanent foundation for the new ‘A’ bridge had to be moved.
Then in February the planned ‘floating-in’ of the new structure had to be postponed and with that part of the project requiring a full closure of the docks to shipping for a week, the earliest this could be rescheduled with dock owners Peel Ports was April.
Since the bridge was successfully moved into place in April, contractors have been completing the remaining works and putting the structure through a rigorous testing and commissioning process to ensure that the new bridge is operating safely and effectively. It will reopen nearly 12 months to the day that the old bridge closed to traffic.
The replacement of the two bridges was possible largely due to a grant of £6.4m from the Department for Transport Local Highway Maintenance Challenge Fund, which assists local authorities in carrying out major infrastructure projects.