Mersey Tunnels Police

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Wallasey Tunnel (Kingsway)


As I have already mentioned briefly on page 3 by 1968 traffic through the Mersey tunnel had reached saturation point and something had to be done. As early as the 1950's it was realised that there was going to be a problem so in 1958 the Mersey Tunnel Joint Committee organised a conference of Merseyside Authorities to consider the problem. The outcome of this Mott, Hay & Anderson were asked to prepare a report on the engineering aspects of a new Mersey crossing, a comprehensive traffic survey was carried out to determine the best location of the new crossing and it's approaches. The result of the survey confirmed the need for a second crossing and was indeed acute and that it must be confined within a three-mile radius either side of the Mersey tunnel (Queensway). Although the engineers favoured a six-lane river bridge it was rejected, as it did not fit in with the new road plans particularly on the Liverpool side. A site was finally chosen one mile to the north of the existing tunnel. The main reason for this choice was that it fitted in well with future plans for the road development in the area.

Parliamentary power were sought to construct a tunnel with two 12ft traffic lanes and approximately five miles of approach roads. These were embodied in the Mersey tunnel (Liverpool/Wallasey) act 1965 which also provided borrowing powers for the work and reconstituted the Mersey Tunnel Joint Committee so as to afford representation by the Wallasey Corporation.


One very important stipulation made a machine should bore the tunnel, compared with the traditional method of rock tunnelling using explosives, the use of a machine promised a number of advantages, avoidance of noise in residential and built up areas, minimal disturbance of rock plus many other factors.

In January 1966 work commenced on an 12ft x 12ft pilot tunnel which was driven over the whole length of the proposed Liverpool to Wallasey tunnel, the work was completed in 12 months.

The excavation of the sandstone to enlarge the pilot tunnel was carried out using at the time the largest drilling machine the world called The Mole, manufactured in the USA. This 350-ton machine bored into the rock by means of a cutting disc mounted at the front, the excavated sandstone was automatically discharged at the rear of the machine then passed back to the tunnel mouth via a system of conveyors. This was the first time a machine of this size had ever been used in the United Kingdom. When the first tunnel drive was completed 'The Mole' was dismantled and removed to the surface in preparation for its use on the second tunnel.

When the first phase of the Wallasey tunnel was completed it had taken six years and was officially opened on June 24th 1971 by HRH Queen Elizabeth II and named Kingsway. It was during this time that the constitution of the MTJC changed to include members of the Wallasey Borough Council. Legislation extended the boundaries of the Mersey tunnel police to include the Wallasey tunnel and its approaches this includes a link road, two miles long of motorway standard with a speed limit of 70 miles per hour reducing to 40 miles per hour on approaching the tollbooths. This road is an extension of the M53 and is used exclusively by traffic entering or leaving the Kingsway tunnel.

The second phase of the Wallasey tunnel was opened on February 13th 1974 a significant year of the Mersey Tunnels Police. The Metropolitan Counties were formed and the MTJC ceased to exist. Responsibility for the Mersey tunnels passed to the engineers department of Merseyside County Council, a particularly unhappy period ensued for the police large County Council logos were displayed on both sides of Mersey tunnel police vehicles and the large police stop signs replaced with smaller ones. This season of change had a demoralising effect on all ranks of the police, fortunately this sad state of affairs ceased to be in 1986 when both tunnels were transferred to the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority (who still operate both tunnels today).

The Mersey Tunnel Police of today are a far cry from 1936, their total strength to date are: 1 Chief Superintendent, 1 Chief inspector, 5 Inspectors, 15 Sergeants, 60 Constables, 9 of who are WPC's. They are divided into five teams or sections working a three-shift system, giving 24-hour cover under the supervision of a sergeant or inspector. The Superintendent and Chief Inspector are always on call should an emergency dictate their presence. The HQ is situated at the Wallasey entrance to the Kingsway tunnel and is located in an elevated building spanning the tollbooths. The building consists of a large control room with two banks of close circuit television (CCTV) monitors covering both the Queensway and the Kingsway tunnels approaches, entrances, interiors and exits. Radio contact is maintained by both mobile and foot patrols with a direct link to the Merseyside police control room and other emergency services. There is cover in the control room 24-hours a day by Inspectors and Constables alike also contained is parade/lecture room/office and mess room.


 Written by : Alan Leitch

(C) 2005

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