This week marks 50 years since the Queen opened the 1.5 mile Kingsway Tunnel between Liverpool and Wallasey on June 24, 1971, the second Mersey Tunnel.
Initially only one tube with two lanes, it took five years to build with the help of the 35-tonne Mersey Mole – a 45ft long tunnelling machine previously used to build the Mangla Dam in Pakistan.
It took a further three years to complete the tunnel’s second, more northerly tube which opened to traffic on February 13, 1974 – finally giving Kingsway the four lanes we know today.
Kingsway was built to cope with a dramatic increase in post war traffic and around 16.4 million vehicles a year now pass through it.
Joining Liverpool to Wirral’s M53 motorway via an old railway cutting, it eventually replaced the Queensway tunnel as the busiest road crossing between Liverpool and Wirral.
The tunnel comprises identical twin tubes. Each tube has two 12 ft (3.7 m) lanes and they carry on average 45,000 vehicles a day (almost 16.4million per year). As of 2017, a single car journey through the tunnel currently costs £1.80.
As part of an upgrade in 2016 to the lighting over 75 miles (120 km) of wiring was installed in the tunnel, which saw the tunnel fitted with more energy efficient and longer-lasting LED lights.
Speaking ahead of the anniversary, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said:
“The Kingsway Tunnel remains an incredible feat of engineering that changed the Liverpool City Region forever.”
“50 years on, it is only right that we recognise the talented engineers and courageous workers – eight of whom lost their lives during the construction of the tunnel – who met the immense challenges of digging deep under the River Mersey to help construct this vital link between Liverpool and the Wirral peninsula.”