The Mersey Gateway Bridge should open to traffic by 2016

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has approved up to £470m of funding for a new bridge across the River Mersey between Runcorn and Widnes.

The structure, to be called the Mersey Gateway Bridge, will improve links between the North West and the rest of the country, and will ease congestion on the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge.

The procurement process is expected to begin later this month, and construction will start in 2013.

The construction cost (including land) is around £600m, which the Department of Transport will support through a capital grant and continued revenue funding for PFI payments.

Mr Hammond said of the cost: “In response to the government’s request to reduce costs, Halton Borough council have achieved savings of around £30m on the original proposed cost - meaning the scheme will offer better value to the taxpayer, whilst bringing vital improvements to the region. Further cost savings are expected through a competitive procurement process.”

The Mersey Gateway team declared themselves “delighted” that a detailed funding agreement had been reached.