I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The Bill is promoted by Cleveland county council, of which my constituency forms part. Its purpose is to remove the statutory obligation on that council to provide for the Tees-Newport bridge to be raised whenever a vessel wishes to pass beneath it.
The bridge was opened in 1934 and has a central roadway span which can be lifted vertically by approximately 100 ft in the space of two minutes or less. The machinery and other equipment required to facilitate the raising of the bridge is very expensive to maintain and given the fact that the bridge has not had to be raised for a commercial vessel since 1984, and is unlikely to be raised again, the financial burden imposed on the county council is considerable and can no longer by justified. If the statutory obligation to raise the bridge can be repealed, the council estimates that it will save approximately £1 million over the next 10 years.
I assure the House that, even with the bridge in its lowered position, there is approximately 6 m clearance for vessels at high water. That compares with a clearance of 5 m for the Victoria bridge up river at Stockton and a minimum clearance of 5·5 m for the proposed new road bridge which would be constructed if and when the River Tees Barrage and Crossing Bill is enacted. I commend this Bill unreservedly to the House.