At midnight, the new £600m Mersey Gateway officially opened. This is a new bridge over the River Mersey connecting Widnes and Runcorn. It is the largest infrastructure project in England outside London and is an important sign that the Northern Powerhouse is far from dead.
This is a crossing I will use regularly, including making my debut on Monday when I go to London to teach at Liverpool University’s London Campus – I am delighted to have been invited back to spend another day teaching on its Strategic Communication MSc programme. I return later next week for another trip to London – this time to meet with one of the country’s leading and iconic charities and the following week for a trip to present a report to a client in Wales. As a regular user, I am thrilled to see the new bridge – its improved road network and the extra convenience it will offer – but as a former parliamentary candidate from the parish, I am proud that it has happened, after years of campaigning by many, many people.
I spent many of the 18 months I was a candidate talking about “the bridge”. It wasn’t a political issue it was a local issue in which almost everyone agreed we needed a new bridge. We just needed to convince the people that mattered in Westminster and Whitehall.
I was determined to play my very small part in supporting the local MP, Derek Twigg, the local Labour-led council and council officials who were pushing hard for the bridge. As a Conservative, I was able to access Conservative officials and shadow – soon to be government – ministers, including William Hague. I didn’t miss an opportunity to mention the bridge or speak about it at conferences or meetings; the need for government support; the need for funding; the need for planning support. If anything I did – anything at all – helped, even a little bit, I am delighted. But the most important thing is that it has happened and there is no doubt that Derek and many others deserve huge credit for all their work to make the case for this major investment.
As the writer Frederick Nael said” “It takes both sides to build a bridge”.