Mersey £431m bridge plan escapes spending review cuts

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Computer-generated image of new bridge crossing
Image caption,
The bridge would be 1km (0.6 miles) in length across the River Mersey

Plans to build a second £431m bridge between Runcorn and Widnes will go ahead, the chancellor has confirmed.

The Mersey Gateway project had been put on hold pending the outcome of the Treasury's Spending Review.

George Osborne offered the scheme hope earlier in October when he told the BBC it was one of his priorities.

Speaking on Sunday, he confirmed that the six-lane toll bridge, agreed under the last government, would escape the axe under the review.

Mr Osborne told BBC One's Andrew Marr show that he was putting the final touches to the Spending Review, which will be announced on 20 October.

"The priority here has been to target waste and welfare, to invest in our health care, to give real increases in the school budget and to invest in the things that are going to make our economy strong," he said.

"Projects like Crossrail, which will go ahead, projects like the Mersey Gateway, which is going to go ahead.

"Those things are actually going to get us out of this stronger and able to pay our way in the world."

Road user charging

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.

Despite widespread support, the scheme is opposed by the National Alliance Against Tolls (NAAT) because it means charges are also planned to be introduced on the Silver Jubilee bridge.

"Supporters of the scheme say that this will be a boost to the economy. On the contrary, the scheme will be a barrier that will damage the economy," he said.

"This scheme should have been the first to be cut, and the Coalition have made a big mistake by throwing money into such a terrible project."

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