A CHEMICAL spillage and accident were staged on the new Mersey Gateway to test emergency services – weeks before the crossing is due to open.

Fire engines and ambulances littered the carriageway as crews practiced their lifesaving skills.

The major emergency planning exercise was hailed a success as firefighters and paramedics rescued casualties and Marc Beechey, station manager with Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, who put the scenario together, said: “It has created an excellent working platform and has set the foundations for a fantastic working relationship between the fire service and our partner agencies.

“It provided valuable knowledge and understanding of agency roles when dealing with complex incidents, involving a number of combined scenarios.”

It simulated an accident and chemical spillage on the bridge and was designed to test how the emergency services would respond to a real emergency on the bridge.

The planning exercise involved teams from Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, Cheshire Police, North West Ambulance Service, Environment Agency and Halton Council and Merseylink’s bridge maintenance team.

This was a vital part of the final planning ahead of the opening of the new bridge in the next few weeks and means all services have the opportunity to assess their responses to ensure they can respond effectively to a real emergency situation.

Halton Council leader Rob Polhill said: “We already have well rehearsed and detailed processes in place to deal with incidents or accidents on the Silver Jubilee bridge and we’ve been working closely with our colleagues in the emergency services to make sure we have detailed plans in place for the new bridge.”

Hugh O’Connor, general manager at Merseylink, said: “With any piece of major new infrastructure it is vital local emergency services and associated agencies are prepared to deal with real emergencies.

“The new Mersey Gateway bridge and the road network that links it to the main routes through Halton features very clever smart road technology that allows our maintenance teams and our emergency services colleagues to respond very quickly to any incident or accident on the route.

“We will be able to monitor what is happening along the entire route 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“This is all part of our efforts to be able to respond to any safety concerns, and in the event of a real incident, we can deal with it as quickly and effectively as possible.”

Simon Hurst, Merseyside area operations manager at the Environment Agency, said: “The Environment Agency is a category one responder as with any major incident we assess and deal with adverse environmental impact.

“The Environment Agency achieves this through close collaboration with key partners to ensure positive environmental outcomes are considered at the start, during and post incident management.”