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Council clinches new deal on Ship Canal

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AGREEMENT has been reached between Warrington Borough Council and Peel Ports – owners of the Manchester Ship Canal – to minimise traffic disruption in the town when the bridges are swung.
Leader of the council Terry O’Neill and lead member for transport, Cllr Linda Dirir, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the company.
The agreement should reduce traffic disruption by limiting the number of occasions on which the bridges are operated during peak periods to less than 100 a year.
In addition, Peel have agreed to allow free use of the Warburton Toll Bridge at times of serious traffic hold-ups on the M6 at Thelwall Viaduct
Cllr O’Neill (pictured below) said the borough council had worked hard to negotiate a better deal for Warrington with Peel Ports.
He said: “Peel Holdings are a private profit-making company who may have a historic legal right to operate all three swing bridges at Warrington as they wish, but when the swing bridges close it causes massive disruption to residents.”
The Memorandum of Understanding will stipulate that every effort will be made by Peel to minimise disruption to the town’s traffic arteries and keep the number of times the swing bridges close at rush hour to less than 100 times a year.
The Memoradum of Understanding also commits Peel Ports to support the introduction of an early warning system for motorists about swing bridge closures.
This will be introduced in July this year and will take the form of electronic signs on the town’s key roads plus a system of web-based information and text message alerts.
Peel Holdings have also agreed that when there are serious traffic problems on the M6 by Thelwall Viaduct which cause disruption to the town’s highways, they will allow motorists to use the Warburton Bridge toll free.
Crucially, the council has also reserved the right to review the final signed Memorandum of Understanding at any stage should they feel the town’s interests are not being properly served.
For instance, councillors are commissioning a detailed analysis of the combined impact on Warrington traffic of the swing bridges and the introduction of new road tolls on the Mersey Gateway bridges at Runcorn. The council wants the Government to scrap these tolls – but so far they have not agreed to do so.
Cllr Dirir said: “The historic legal rights which Peel Holdings aquired to operate the Manchetser Ship Canal were designed in an era before cars were invented and this agreement will make a difference. We will monitor the situation like hawks and assess the impact of the early warning system.”
Nick Bent, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Warrington South, welcomed the concessions made by Peel and said he would now be seeking even stronger guarantees for residents through his plan for a review of the Ship Canal legislation, for consideration of an independent tribunal to govern the swing bridges and for the Government to scrap the Mersey bridges road tolls as they had on a much bigger road scheme in the south of England.

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Experienced journalist for more than 40 years. Managing Director of magazine publishing group with three in-house titles and on-line daily newspaper for Warrington. Experienced writer, photographer, PR consultant and media expert having written for local, regional and national newspapers. Specialties: PR, media, social networking, photographer, networking, advertising, sales, media crisis management. Director Warrington Chamber of Commerce Patron Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. Trustee Warrington Disability Partnership. Former Chairman of Warrington Town FC.

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