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Medway Council to buy Medway Tunnel

Date: 22/05/2008           Category: Highways Traffic and Parking

Medway Council has agreed to buy the Medway Tunnel, with the aim of safeguarding the future of road transport in Medway by putting the funding of this major road link on a firmer footing. The council voted to buy the freehold of the tunnel from the Rochester Bridge Trust for a nominal sum of £1, and also accepted a one-off payment of £3.648million from the trust towards the tunnel’s upkeep. Medway Council currently leases the Medway Tunnel under a 999-year lease from the trust. The lease commits the council to keeping the tunnel in good repair, and rebuilding or reinstating it as necessary. Since the tunnel opened, the trust has made annual grants towards the tunnel’s upkeep, and established a fund to help with the cost of future repairs. The award of each grant is discretionary, depending on the approval of the Trust’s engineer and subject to the availability of funds. The new arrangement would give the council greater freedom to manage the tunnel without reference to the trust, and a guaranteed source of finance in the short-to-medium term. “This is good news for Medway motorists, and proof of our commitment to safe and easy travel in Medway,” said Portfolio Holder for Front Line Services Cllr Phil Filmer. “This move will give the funding and management of the tunnel by the council a much simpler and surer basis. “In the long term, we hope it will lead to revenue financing of the tunnel by the Department for Transport and remove the historical anomaly affecting responsibility for its upkeep.” The proposed agreement between the council and the trust is now subject to the approval of the Charity Commission, which must agree the transfer of the tunnel and the release of the grant money. Background The Medway Tunnel was opened by HRH Princess Anne on 12 June 1996 and provides an alternative route across the River Medway to the Rochester bridges on the A2. Roughly 46,000 vehicles use the 725m long tunnel every day, about nine per cent of which are HGVs. It was the first immersed-tube tunnel to be built in England and only the second of this type in the UK, the other being at Conway in North Wales. It took four years and cost £80million to build. For more historical details, see www.rbt.org.uk/medwaytunnel/index.htm For further technical information, go to http://www.medway.gov.uk/index/environment/streets/2503.html [