Fireworks to mark £600m Mersey Gateway bridge opening

Image source, Mersey Gateway
Image caption,
The Mersey Gateway Bridge aims to ease congestion on the existing Runcorn-Widnes bridge

A new £600m toll bridge crossing the River Mersey is to open late on Friday night, it has been announced.

Work on the six-lane Mersey Gateway bridge, which spans 1.5mi (2.2km) between Runcorn and Widnes in Cheshire, began in 2014.

Most drivers will have to pay to use the crossing which officials hope will ease congestion on the existing Runcorn-Widnes bridge.

It will open to traffic at midnight following a large fireworks display.

A Halton Council spokesman said the bridge will also be illuminated with a light show at 20:30 BST on Friday to mark the occasion.

Mersey Gateway Bridge

  • Most drivers will have to pay tolls on the Mersey Gateway Bridge and must register on the official Merseyflow site to get discounts or free travel
  • Drivers can still cross both bridges without registering but will have to pay the full £2 toll fee per crossing, with extra charges for larger vehicles
  • Eligible residents in Halton can cross both bridges for free once they have paid a £10 annual fee
  • Mersey Gateway's free-flow system means there will be no toll booths on the route
  • Technology that can read number plates will be used to collect payments

Once the Mersey Gateway Bridge opens, the Runcorn-Widnes bridge will be closed for repairs. When it reopens, tolls will be introduced to that crossing, too.

Campaigners against the tolls will hold a demonstration at Runcorn Town Hall on Sunday.

Action group Scrap Mersey Tolls said the introduction of tolls would make Halton "a no-go area discouraging visitors and new firms".

David Parr, chief executive of Halton Borough Council, said: "We had a choice to make as a local authority - we had a congested bridge and the government were saying to us if want to reduce that congestion you need to have a toll crossing - toll bridge or no bridge."

A Department for Transport spokesman said in a statement the funding was similar to the Second Severn Crossing between England and Wales in the 1990s.

He said it would "significantly improve accessibility... and journey times" in the area particularly to major businesses and Liverpool John Lennon airport.

In July, the UK government announced that tolls on the Severn bridges between Wales and England would be scrapped by the end of 2018.

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