WARRINGTON Borough Council and Peel Ports have pledged to unite following growing pressure to minimise the traffic nightmare caused by the opening of the swing bridges.
Mounting frustration and anger from motorists has been revealed after the Warrington Guardian launched a campaign to tackle the traffic issues which triggers gridlock in the town.
Senior council figures, including the council’s three party group leaders and the portfolio holder for transport, met with executives from Peel Ports today and agreed to work in partnership to reduce the number of swings in rush hour.
Peel Ports, who own and operate the swing bridges in Latchford, Walton and Stockton Heath over the Manchester Ship Canal, will draw up a memorandum of understanding with the council where both parties will commit to key actions aimed at reducing the impact of bridge swings.
Peel Ports Group chief operating officer Gary Hodgson said: “In 2014 we anticipate fewer than 100 swings during peak periods and we will do our best to maintain and even reduce this figure in future years.
“The only occasions when the bridges are in use during peak periods will be when we have no practicable alternative.”
Since 2011, the number of times the swing bridges have opened has increased from 506 to 749 in 2013.
This has resulted in an increase in openings at peak times from 79 in 2011 to 108 in 2013. This equates to 16 per cent and 14 per cent of all openings of the bridges, respectively.
Clr Linda Dirir, executive board member for highways, transportation and climate change, said: “Our highest priority was that Peel agreed to reduce the number of vessels passing through Warrington in what we identified as the red traffic period.
“We are absolutely committed to working together to minimise the disruption caused by this and will be regularly reviewing the number of sailings in this period.”
Work has started on an early warning system but, despite an ongoing discussion between Peel Ports and the council, a date has yet to be set to implement the scheme.
The system is said to have been flagged up as a ‘high priority’ by council officers.
The Labour candidate for Warrington South in next year’s General Election, Nick Bent said: "The pressure is on Peel to show they respect Warrington motorists.
"Labour’s plan for an independent tribunal to control the swing bridges could be the best solution until we get a new high-level bridge."