Manchester Ship Canal containers

Peel and Warrington in war of words over swing bridge

Warrington Council has called for urgent talks with Peel Ports aimed at reducing disruption to traffic in the town centre caused by opening the swing bridge on the Manchester Ship Canal to allow freight vessels to pass.

A council spokesman said in a statement said: ""The Manchester Ship Canal Act of 1885 gives Peel Ports a lot of power. But things have changed a great deal since 1885 and Peel need to acknowledge this. If they don't, they could cause avoidable traffic problems in and around Warrington. They could cause increasing annoyance to residents, businesses, visitors and through-traffic and they could risk harming our local economy.

"Peel need to understand that with power comes responsibility. If they operate their bridges in a purely self-interested way, if they don't take into account other people's needs, they'll cause problems.

"The council can help minimise the problems, but Peel must play their part, and we need them to make a reasonable compromise as soon as possible. That's why we've asked for top-level meetings to sort this issue out.

"Warrington Borough Council is confident that we can find a sensible way of working, provided Peel are prepared to give a little. The council will be bringing a set of reasonable, businesslike proposals to these talks, and we hope to come to a workable agreement."

The council believes vessel movements passing through the swing bridges at Warrington during the peak period can be kept at or below 150 per year. This would equate to 20% of the current 750 vessel movements a year. The council wants this percentage reduced to 15% over the next five years.

The council said Peel Ports have so far refused to agree to this.

Gary Hodgson, chief operating officer for the Peel Ports Group, based in Liverpool, responded: "We are somewhat disappointed by Warrington Borough Council's comments regarding the swing bridges in Warrington as we have been engaged in active – and what we thought was constructive – dialogue with the cabinet member for transportation as well as with other senior highways officials within the council.

"The comments issued by Warrington Borough Council today seem to suggest some disconnect within the council organisation. In a series of meetings with them over the last two years we have discussed and agreed a number of actions to mitigate the issues associated with the swing bridges; actions which are exactly in line with the proposed support measures that the council details in its comments today. Peel Ports has already implemented a number of these measures, including increasing the number of night time and off-peak sailings, to help ease traffic issues in Warrington.

"Further to that, Peel Ports has also carried out all the required actions to support an 'early warning' swing bridge alert system; we now just await implementation of the messaging by Warrington Borough Council on their signage and matrix warning infrastructure.
"We want to work productively with Warrington Borough Council on this issue and look forward to continuing our dialogue with them at the earliest opportunity."

Container barge services on the ship canal rose from 3,000 in 2009 to 15,000 by 2012. Customers include Kellogg's, Princes Food and Kingsland Wine. In 2012, Peel added a second crane at Irlam Container Terminal, upstream from Warrington.

The council's wishlist includes:

  • Restrict number of bridge swings during peak periods to a minimum
  • Providing advanced warning of planned shipping movements to stakeholders through the use of an early warning system
  • Looking at modernising bridges so they swing faster, thus shortening times when road traffic is halted
  • Using council swing bridge signs to inform the travelling public that a bridge has swung and that this is the reason for the delay
  • Working to increase the proportion of sailings during the off-peak and night-time periods

Your Comments

So, basically, the clueless clutzes at Warrington BC have had since 1885 to get this right. Now, here we are, at breaking point, without a solution in sight. Doesn’t surprise me one bit

By Poit

So it appears the clueless commenter does not realise that levels of motor traffic and patterns of commercial and residential development was not quite the same in 1885.

By Eyes Peeled

I don’t know what people are complaning about. This is a pefect opportunity for someone (European) to setup a windscreen car wash, while all those motorists are stopped. Run over wash the windscreen and sell a newspaper £1.50 a go and your quids in. People will love it. Why would anyone want to go to Warrington any way, it’s not as though people want to visit the child hood home of Kerry Katona

By Jon

Just be glad your bridges will be free to cross – I live in Penketh and work in North Wales, and will eventually have to pay £300+ to cross the Runcorn/New bridge when built. Therefore sending more people like me through the centre of Warrington making the traffic up through to Daresbury even worse! Oh joy of joys.


wait until port salford is built, then your’ll be complaining, canal traffic isnt going to decrease it will increase massively, bringing more employment with it. more like sour grapes from warrington council the port wasnt built there

By Anonymous

Eyes Peeled: it’s exactly your one-dimnsional mindset that gets us into messes like these.

By Poit

‘why would anyone want to go to Warrington anyway’ what a strange and childish thing to say. Hundreds of thousands of people come to the town to work and live. Its a very successful town and if you read into this website a bit more you would see that.

By Dave

In the 70’s there were over 700 vessels a week going down the ship canal – today’s isssue of 700 a year is nothing in comparison. The article states an increase in containers on the canal to 15k, what that actually means is that it has taken 15k trucks off the roads in the local north west area! This can only be a good thing, not only does it remove congestion, it also saves the planet with a reduction in Co2. The canal was the world’s first ship canal, we should be proud of our heritage and the positive benefits it will have for us in the future. LONG LIVE THE CANAL AND THOSE WHO SAIL ON IT!


This is symptomatic of the British Industrial Malaise a super water way to the ocean built in Victorian times and hardly improved or invested in since that time. I am all for more traffic on the canal because it is commercially beneficial and eco friendly however Peel need to invest in new bridges as the freight traffic increases. This would be a move that takes the ship canal forward for another 100 years securing the future of this amazing North west facility that we could all including warrington benefit from. MORE SHIPS MORE TRADE MORE DOCKERS

By don draper

Poit, I look forward to hearing your confident predictions of road traffic and suggestions for infrastructure investment for the year 2141.

By Eyes Peeled

Eyes Peeled, it isn’t about being able to predict road traffic levels in the year 2141, that would be fanciful. It’s about not doing a jot and getting to December 2140 and saying "ey lads, we’ve got a problem ‘ere, how can this have possibly happened, how did we not see this coming, how we can have got caught out, we’ve only had years and years to get ready for this (evident) problem?!?!" Knowing there’s a potential future problem, whatever that problem may be, and doing bugger all about it is exactly the one-dimensional mindset that keeps our region from achieving its potential. And do you know why that is? Not that we are not good enough, but that there are apologists for not being good enough. Like you. Keep ’em coming…

By Poit

Did you not say that they had since 1885 to "sort this out" implying that the current levels of traffic crossing the canal could have been predicted and addressed 128 years ago? Does the article not also say that there have been discussions for at least 2 years between Peel and the Council? Strikes me as a rather ‘Poitless’ diatribe and a waste of good pixels.

By Eyes Peeled

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