The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon. George Osborne MP has announced the Mersey Gateway Bridge will be free to use for all Halton residents.
The 100% discount scheme will allow the residents of Halton to use the New Mersey Gateway Bridge, and continue to use the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge for free, in recognition of the key role the crossings play in connecting and supporting economic growth in the borough, which is divided by the river.
The initial discount scheme would have allowed Halton residents to make 300 free trips over the bridges per year, but this has now been extended saving regular commuters up to £300 per year more than the original proposal.
The £486 million Mersey Gateway Bridge is scheduled to open in Autumn 2017, and is predicted to create 4,500 jobs whilst significantly improving journey times and reliability in the area.
George Osborne said:
A key part of our long term economic plan is reversing the decades of underinvestment in this country’s infrastructure; but to do so in a way that is fair to taxpayers, consumers and local residents.
That is why I am pleased to announce that we will be making the Mersey Gateway Bridge free to use for the residents of Halton.
The Mersey Gateway Bridge and the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge should be first and foremost for local people, which is why Halton residents will not be charged for using either.
Work on the new Mersey Gateway Bridge has now started following financial close of the project in April 2014.
Residents of Halton will still need to register to use the bridges and there will be a small charge for this.
The Department for Transport will work closely with Halton Borough Council to ensure that the extended system is not open to abuse. The government’s funding commitments to the scheme are due for review five years after full service commencement.
The extension of the discount scheme will continue to apply to the categories of vehicles included in the existing discount scheme.
The Department for Transport will fund up to £250 million towards the £486 million scheme which involves the construction of a new 1km long cable-stayed bridge across the River Mersey between Runcorn and Widnes in the borough of Halton as well as significant reconfiguration of approach roads to the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge.
The government’s funding commitments to the scheme are due for review five years after full service commencement.
The scheme will significantly improve accessibility in the area, providing significant benefits in terms of widening the job market, leading to over 4,500 new jobs. There are also a number of major employment sites such as the Daresbury Enterprise Zone and a major Stobarts logistics site which will benefit from the improved access the bridge will bring which will also improve access to Liverpool John Lennon airport.
The scheme will also improve journey times and reliability for other users who need to cross the Mersey whilst restoring the Silver Jubilee Bridge to its original function as a ‘local bridge’ with improved public transport and cycling/pedestrian provision.
The scheme consists of a new 1km long cable-stayed bridge across the River Mersey between Runcorn and Widnes in the borough of Halton. The existing Silver Jubilee Bridge is the only road link between the two halves of the borough of Halton. Congestion associated with the Silver Jubilee Bridge is asserted as a constraint to economic regeneration and growth both locally, within the Borough, and across the wider Liverpool City Region and the North West.