MOTORISTS are facing a year of traffic hell with plans to open the town’s swing bridges more than 100 times at rush hour in 2014, the Warrington Guardian can reveal.

And this week we are launching a campaign to find out more about the problem - and what can be done to help ease it.

The council has been warned that Peel Ports, who privately own the Manchester Ship Canal, is expecting 720 vessels to sail through Warrington this year, with around 124 of these sailing between peak periods.

The opening of the swing bridges in Walton, Stockton Heath and Latchford has been highlightes as one of the reasons for gridlock in the town.

Peel Ports currently has the power to open the bridges at their discretion due to an 1885 Act of Parliament.

The council has no power over how frequently the bridges are opened or at what time.

Councillor Paul Kennedy (Hatton, Stretton and Walton - Con) said the bridges can cause a ‘nightmare’ for motorists when opened during rush hour.

In March 2012, Clr Kennedy put it to the council that they should try to repeal the act but was told that the costs would be ‘phenomenally high’.

He added: “An alternative option would be for the Government to repeal the act as they have a lot more money than a local authority like Warrington.”

Clr Kennedy believes more must be done to alleviate the problem and confirmed that Warrington Borough Council and Peel Ports are currently in discussion with regards to the issue.

The council is currently working on an early warning system which should provide up to half an hour alerts of the swing bridges opening.

It is expected that this project will be completed later this year.

Andrew Moore, who moved to Warrington five years ago, said: “I was amazed at how accepting people are and that people just let it happen. I think people have just got used to it.

“But if they stopped to think about it they would realise that it’s not fair.”

Andrew, from Birchwood, has launched a campaign to put pressure on Peel Ports to reduce the swing bridge opening hours after traffic problems caused by the bridge started to affect his business.

Andrew works as a self-employed trainer and has missed countless appointments after being stuck in traffic due to the gridlock caused by the swing bridges.

The 50-year-old, who has recently decided to bill Peel Ports for a loss of income, is urging residents to back him in his to bid, which proposes that the swing bridges no longer open during peak times.

From 7.30am to 9am and 4.30pm and 6.30pm, the swing bridge would remain closed, which would still give Peel Ports a 20 and a half hour window to open the bridges and would be more than reasonable, argues Andrew.

A spokesman at Peel Ports said: “We are fully aware of the concerns of residents and businesses regarding traffic issues associated with the opening of the swing bridges at Latchford, Stockton Heath and Walton.

“We are working closely with Warrington Borough Council to minimise the number of vessel movements within the morning and evening peak periods, increased use of the canal during the night, and to develop advanced notification and messaging to forewarn motorists of potential disruption.”

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