Chancellor gives backing to Mersey Gateway scheme

Chancellor George Osborne has given his clearest reassurance yet that he wants the Mersey Gateway project to go ahead.

Plans for the £431m bridge between Runcorn and Widnes have been put on hold until after the Treasury's spending review in October.

Mr Osborne stopped short of committing cash, but he did say the scheme was one of his priorities.

Speaking on the BBC's Politics Show, he said the Mersey Gateway was "an incredibly important project".

Road charging

He added: "That is something I'm really number crunching now to make sure that we're in a position to say something positive.

"I want to invest in the big infrastructure projects, the big investments that are going to help our economy grow in the regions, not just in the south east of England."

The bridge project was shelved in June, when the Department for Transport (DfT) said it could not guarantee its £83m support for the scheme until after the review.

About £22m has already been spent on the project, which is designed to ease congestion on the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge.

Funding for the bridge, which will span 1km (0.6 miles) across the River Mersey, will largely be met by the private sector and road user charging.

It has cross-party support across the region and many major business backers.

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