Why the Queensway Mersey Tunnel was built

construction workers in a large roughly cut underground tunnel with metal suports holding up the top

Queensway Mersey Tunnel workers at the Rendel Street heading, Birkenhead 1928. Archive reference 6788-1

The commercial links which existed between Liverpool and Birkenhead meant that the transport of both people and vehicles had to be catered for. A bridge across or a tunnel beneath the Mersey had been contemplated early in the nineteenth century,  which eventually resulted in the construction of a tunnel to take the Mersey Railway, officially opened in 1886.

However, the subsequent growth in motorised cross river traffic and the resulting queues awaiting ferry transportation was creating serious congestion and hindering development, which raised the question of an additional road passageway across the Mersey.

A tunnel was chosen as the better option by a fact-finding group lead by Sir Archibald Salvidge, then leader of Liverpool City Council, with a bridge rejected on the grounds of the higher estimated cost and impracticalities of the necessary supporting piers which would obstruct shipping, affect the current and cause silting.  In 1925 the Mersey Tunnel Joint Committee was created, the statutory management authority with Salvidge as chairman; Salvidge was the initial driving force in advancing the tunnel scheme and instrumental in getting it underway. 

A variety of disagreements left Liverpool and Birkenhead as the two partners to carry the scheme forward; others dropped out, notably Wallasey, later to become the destination for the third Mersey tunnel, Kingsway, with the first bore opened in 1971.  Throughout the project funding remained an issue; trying to balance government grants, with recouping costs via, loans, increases on rates and tolls.