This week marks 50 years since the official opening of the second Mersey Tunnel.
The Queen opened the 1.5 mile Kingsway Tunnel between Liverpool and Wallasey on June 24, 1971.
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.
Eight men died during the construction of the Wallasey Tunnel. Commemorative plaques listing their names were placed at the tunnel entrances in both Liverpool and Wirral in 1997.
Kingsway was built to cope with a dramatic increase in post-war traffic and today, on average 45,000 vehicles a day or around 16.4 million vehicles a year pass through it. It was built because the Queensway Tunnel – which was built in the 1930s to carry vehicles between Birkenhead and Liverpool – was unable to cope with the rise in traffic.
Joining Liverpool to Wirral’s M53 motorway via the old Seacombe Branch Line railway cutting, it eventually replaced the Queensway tunnel as the busiest road crossing between Liverpool and Wirral.
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.”