Mersey Gateway officially recommended to government
The bid to build a new crossing over the River Mersey between Widnes and Runcorn has taken a major step forward after the scheme was officially recommended to the Government for approval.
The Executive Board of the North West Regional Assembly (NWRA) has included the Mersey Gateway in the list of 25 major transport regional transport projects that should get the go-ahead from the Government and be completed in the next ten to 12 years.
This means that final approval for the crossing could now be just months away, with Transport Secretary Alistair Darling expected to make a decision on the regional transport schemes very shortly.
In total, members of the NWRA have approved £1.3bn of transport projects across the region, of which the Mersey Gateway has been allocated £64m.
If the Government grants final approval for the Mersey Gateway, a further £71m of Private Finance Initiative (PFI) credits are expected to be made available and the rest of the project will be funded through the tolling of the new bridge.
Councillor Tony McDermott, Leader of Halton Borough Council and Chair of the Mersey Crossing Group, said: “We are delighted with the NWRA’s decision to include the Mersey Gateway as a priority scheme for the North West.
“The Government asked us to get the scheme onto the regional priority list and that is what we have done.
“Although we will not be satisfied until the Government grants final approval, it is certainly a major step in the right direction and we now wait eagerly for a decision to be made by the Minister of State.”
Last month, Councillor McDermott travelled to London to meet Roads Minister Dr Stephen Ladyman, along with Halton Borough Council Chief Executive David Parr, Liverpool John Lennon Airport Managing Director Neil Pakey, O?Connor Transport Managing Director Steve O?Connor and Mersey Gateway Project Director Steve Nicholson.
The delegation impressed on the Minister the importance of the Mersey Gateway Bridge to Halton and the Liverpool city region and informed him of the ongoing work that has been going on with his officials to resolve the few outstanding technical matters that remain.
After the meeting, Dr Ladyman agreed that the strategic case for the Mersey Gateway is “very strong”.
* The NWRA will seek the ratification of its Executive Board decision at a meeting of the Full Assembly this Friday (13th January) and the final decision on approval will rest with the Secretary of State for Transport.