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'No reason' for Mersey Gateway tolls once £600m bill is paid

Mersey Gateway Image copyright Mersey Gateway
Image caption Halton Council said it will "review" tolls when the bills have been paid off in 25 years

There will be "no reason" for tolls on a new £600m bridge crossing the River Mersey once it has been paid for, the transport secretary has said.

The six-lane Mersey Gateway, between Runcorn and Widnes in Cheshire, will open to traffic at midnight on Friday.

Chris Grayling said he expects that once "the bridge is paid for, the tolls go".

Halton Council said the bills would be paid in 25 years, at which point a "review" of tolls would take place.

Mr Grayling said it was his "expectation that whoever is in my chair in the future when the bill is paid, there's no reason to keep tolls".

A similar announcement had been made for the Severn bridges, which will be free from the end of 2018.

'Discouraging'

David Parr, chief executive of Halton Borough Council, said when when the costs had been covered "there's a provision in the contract we have with central government and operators that we review the tolling regime".

Leader of Halton Council Councillor Rob Polhill said the authority would "support" scrapping tolls on the Mersey Gateway Bridge and the nearby Silver Jubilee Bridge "once all outstanding financial matters relating to the two bridges have been met".

The bridge, which spans 1.5 miles (2.2km), will open following a light show and fireworks on Friday evening.

Most drivers will have to pay to use the crossing, though Halton residents can pay an annual £10 fee to cross for free.

Officials hope it will ease congestion on the Silver Jubilee Bridge, which will close for repairs once the Mersey Gateway opens.

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

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