Liverpool

Planners approve Mersey Gateway bridge project

Computer-generated image of new bridge crossing
Image caption Funding for the Mersey Gateway project was approved in October

Planning approval for a second bridge linking Runcorn and Widnes has been formally signed off by the government.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles have given the green light for the Mersey Gateway project to begin next year.

Funding for the scheme to build a six-lane toll bridge between Runcorn and Widnes was approved in October.

The bridge is set to take congestion away from the Silver Jubilee Bridge, which has been in place since 1961.

The current bridge was designed to carry 9,000 vehicles a day but now carries nearly 10 times that amount.

Once the new bridge is in place, the Silver Jubilee Bridge is to be renovated and reopened, also as a toll bridge.

'Fantastic news'

The Mersey Gateway has won support across the region from all parties and many major business backers.

Councillor Rob Polhill, leader of Halton Borough Council, said: "This decision has been a long time coming but it is fantastic news and we are delighted that the government ministers and the planning inspector have backed our plans so comprehensively.

"There is still a lot more work to do before we begin construction, but this brings us a huge step closer to delivering much-needed new jobs and investment for Halton and the whole region."

The government approval and the publication of the inspector's report comes almost 18 months after a public inquiry was held into the project.

A total of seven different applications have been approved, including those for the main tolling plaza and the surrounding approach roads on both sides of the river.

Plans to charge tolls on the new bridge and to propose tolling the Silver Jubilee Bridge have also been given the go-ahead.

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