Osborne reveals £35m for Mersey dredging scheme

CHANCELLOR George Osborne has announced a grant of £35m from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund for a major project to dredge the approach channel in the Mersey Estuary.

Mr Osborne said the cash would help create 5,000 jobs in the North West. The dredging scheme is a key part of the £300m Liverpool2 container terminal project.
The Chancellor made the announcement during a visit to Liverpool where he met representatives from businesses in the region, as well as apprentices training for jobs in the maritime sector.

First approved last year in Round 2 of the Regional Growth Fund, the grant has been awarded to Peel Group subsidiary Mersey Docks and Harbour Company towards the cost of dredging the Mersey Estuary at Seaforth.

By deepening the approach channel of the Mersey to 16 metres it will allow access for post-Panamax size container ships as well as widening the tidal access window for a range of other river users.

As a result the grant will support the creation, expansion and protection of thousands of jobs and businesses dependent on the river.

Mr Osborne said: “This project is good news for Merseyside and the North West, but also important to the UK as a whole. As well as creating 5,000 jobs, upgrading Merseyside’s maritime infrastructure demonstrates that this country is open for business, and ready to compete in the global race.

“This government is working hard to heal the damage inflicted on our economy, and we are making sure we prioritise this kind of long-term investment in the infrastructure of our country”

Mark Whitworth, chief executive of Peel Ports Group, said: “This is exactly the kind of public sector investment the country needs because it will drive growth in the UK’s private sector by improving infrastructure.

“The grant will critically support the region’s maritime economy, and it will help Peel Ports expand the Port of Liverpool with our new £300m container terminal Liverpool2.”

The Chancellor also announced the start of construction today, and the new terminal is expected to be open for business in 2015.

The maritime sector in the Liverpool City Region employs 28,000 people across 1,700 businesses and contributes £2.6bn to Liverpool City Region’s annual economic output – 15% of the total economic output for the region.

Liverpool City Region LEP Chair Robert Hough said: “This investment is a cornerstone of our collective ambition to maximise and accelerate economic growth across the city region’s port and logistics sector.

“Together with its partners, the LEP is focused on the development and implementation of the SuperPORT strategy. The start of this major project marks a new chapter in Liverpool’s mercantile history.” 

Susan Williams, chief executive of Atlantic Gateway, a private-sector led campaign to maximise job creation in the region, added: “The maritime sector has always been central to the Liverpool City Region’s economy and this award will further underpin the growth of hundreds of maritime businesses that use the Mersey in what is an increasingly competitive global market.

“The RGF grant will significantly boost international trade for the region and will drive jobs and growth. Investment in this kind of important infrastructure is crucial to developing international trade routes to the North of England.”