Mersey Gateway visitor centre opens to the public with help of local schoolchildren

Pupils from a Halton school have officially opened a new visitor centre dedicated to the Mersey Gateway Project.

Anna McDermott and Ellis Bebbington, both aged 7, from St Michael’s Catholic Primary School in Widnes took part in an official opening ceremony to declare the new Mersey Gateway visitor centre open to the public.

Fellow pupils and teachers from the school joined members of the Merseylink team to get a first-look at the new centre, which is based at the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre in Widnes.

The visitor centre is being used to tell the story of Halton’s iconic new bridge. It is free* to the general public and is open from 10am-4pm, Tuesday through to Sunday (the Catalyst centre is closed on Mondays).

Visitors can use a number of interactive display screens to access a wide range of project information, including videos, photographs, a live site webcam, and a special children’s zone. E-learning packages and training materials are also available providing detailed information about general methods of construction.

The visitor centre is staffed by Mersey Gateway volunteers, who will act as a key point of contact for the public. The volunteers, who have all taken part in Merseylink’s comprehensive volunteer training programme, will be on hand to answer questions on everything from local history and heritage, environment and ecology, to the bridge construction.

The volunteers will also host trips to the Catalyst centre’s rooftop observatory, where visitors can get a bird’s eye view of the construction work that is taking place in the estuary.

Classmates Anna and Ellis, both from Year 3 at St Michael’s, were excited to take part in the opening of the centre.

Anna said:

“I really liked cutting the ribbon and going up in the lift to the roof. I think everyone should come to the visitor centre. There are screens where you can find out about different types of bridges.”

Ellis said:

“I was excited on the bus and it was special to be able to cut the ribbon. I think lots of children will like to come here.”

Cllr. Rob Polhill, Leader of Halton Borough Council and Chair of the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board, said:

“The new bridge will not only bring many positive benefits to the area, it is something that will shape Halton’s future identity. It’s definitely worth coming down to the visitor centre to take a look.”

Bryan Davies, Chairman of Catalyst, said:

“We are extremely pleased that we have been selected to host the visitor centre for this major engineering project, that is so vital to the region. We look forward to welcoming visitors to the centre and hope that they will take the time to enjoy the additional facilities that Catalyst has to offer whilst they are here.”

Hugh O’Connor, General Manager at Merseylink, said:

“This is one of the most important and iconic infrastructure projects currently underway in the UK, so we’re delighted to be able to offer people the chance to find out about more about what’s happening on their doorstep.”

This is the first of two Mersey Gateway visitor centres. The second visitor centre will be based in Runcorn and is due to open in the spring.

The economic, transport and social benefits the project will bring to the region include:

  • 470 permanent full-time equivalent jobs on site during construction
  • 4,640 permanent direct and indirect jobs
  • £61.9 million a year in Gross Value Added from the new jobs by 2030.

When it opens in 2017, both the new bridge and the Silver Jubilee Bridge will be tolled, but they will be free to all Halton residents.