Queensway Tunnel


Queensway Tunnel

The Queensway Tunnel is a road tunnel under the River Mersey, in the north west of England, between Liverpool and Birkenhead. It is often called the Birkenhead Tunnel to specify it serves Birkenhead as opposed to the Kingsway Tunnel, an alternative tunnel crossing the Mersey, which serves Wallasey.

History

The first tunnel under the River Mersey was for the Mersey Railway in 1886. The possibility of a Mersey road crossing was first discussed in the 1890s. During the 1920s there were concerns about the long queues of cars and lorries at the Mersey Ferry terminal so once Royal Assent to a Parliamentary bill was received construction of the first Mersey Road Tunnel started in 1925 to a design by consulting engineer Sir Basil Mott. Mott supervised the construction in association with John Brodie, who, as City Engineer of Liverpool, had co-ordinated the feasibility studies made by consultant Engineers Mott, Hay and Anderson. In 1928 the two pilot tunnels met to within less than an inch (25 mm).

The tunnel entrances, toll booths and ventilation building exteriors were designed by architect Herbert James Rowse, who is frequently but incorrectly credited with the whole civil engineering project. These are Grade II listed buildings. The main contractor was Sir Nicholas Nuttall. [ [http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/views/obituaries/2007/08/09/sir-nicholas-nuttall-64375-19597612/ Sir Nicholas Nuttall - obituary] ]

The tunnel was opened on July 18, 1934 by King George V and Queen Mary, in honour of whom the tunnel is named. 200,000 people watched the opening from the Old Haymarket entrance, in Liverpool.

It cost £8,000,000 to build, and 1,200,000 tons of rock, gravel and clay were excavated, with some of this rubble being used to build Otterspool Promenade.

1,700 men worked in the tunnel of whom 17 were killed during work.

By the 1960s, demand dictated the construction of a further tunnel, the Kingsway Tunnel, which opened in 1971.

Description

The tunnel is 3240m (2 miles) long. It contains a single carriageway of four lanes, two in each direction. Different height restrictions apply to the nearside and offside lanes in each direction, due to the curvature of the tunnel. All buses are required to use the offside lane, regardless of their height.

Lane signals (consisting of an illuminated green arrow or red cross) are displayed at regular intervals, although under normal circumstances none of the lanes are currently used bidirectionally. This is in contrast to the Kingsway Tunnel, where three out of four lanes operate in one direction during peak hours.

The tunnel has two branches leading off the main tunnel to the dock areas on both sides of the river. The Birkenhead branch tunnel (known as the Rendel St. branch) is disused. It was closed in 1965. The Liverpool branch tunnel remains in use, in the exit direction only. It emerges opposite the Liver Building, next to the Atlantic Tower Hotel & Church of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas. Originally it carried two-way traffic, and the junction inside the tunnel was controlled by traffic lights, but this arrangement was discontinued to reduce the delays brought on by increasing traffic levels.

Today

When driving through the tunnel, it appears as a half-circle. It is circular, however, and the area below the roadway is known as Central Avenue. Originally it was planned to run electric trams through it, but it was used to house a gas pipe which was later abandoned. In April 2004 construction began of seven emergency refuges below the road deck, each capable of holding 180 people, as part of a £9 million safety project to bring the tunnel into line with the highest European standards. Each refuge is 21 metres long and three metres wide, and reached via highly visible access points in the main tunnel walls. The refuges have fire resistant doors, ramps for wheelchair access, a supply of bottled water, a toilet, and a video link to the Mersey Tunnels Police control room. All seven refuges are linked by a walkway below the road surface, with exits at the Liverpool and Birkenhead ends.

The present toll fee (2008) is £1.40 per journey for a single passenger car of typical size. [cite web |url=http://www.merseytunnels.co.uk/nossl/html/fees.php| title=Mersey Tunnels: Tolls, Fees and Charges]

References

Further reading

* Moore, Jim (1998) "Underground Liverpool", Liverpool : Bluecoat Press, ISBN 1-872568-43-2

External links

* [http://www.merseytunnels.co.uk/ Official website of the Mersey Tunnels]


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