Mersey Gateway bridge to be free to Halton residents
Residents of Halton will not have to pay to use two bridges over the River Mersey, when a new crossing opens in three years' time, the Chancellor has announced.
George Osborne said he wanted to make sure "local people were not penalised".
Work on the six-lane toll bridge, linking Runcorn and Widnes, is due to be finished by 2017.
It aims to ease congestion on the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge which has been in place since 1961.
Residents were initially offered 300 free return trips on the bridges.
Mr Osborne said he did not think it was fair people living in Runcorn and Widnes should pay to cross a river in their borough and the cost would now be met by the government.
Conn O'Dwyer, from Halton Against The Silver Jubilee Bridge Tolls, said he would continue to campaign for free travel for all north west residents.
He said: "Now we've freed the residents, we're hoping to support the greater north west economy."
The Department for Transport will fund up to £250m towards the £486m scheme which involves the construction of a new 1km (0.6m) long, cable-stayed bridge across the River Mersey, as well as significant reconfiguration of approach roads to the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge.
The budget for the total cost of construction and 30-year operating and maintenance of the project was close to £2bn, Merseylink Consortium and Halton Borough Council said.