CONGESTION CHARGING regulations could be used to speed construction of the £335M new Mersey Crossing near Runcorn, the local authority promoting the project said this week.
Halton Borough Council said it was exploring the use of congestion charging powers in the Transport Act to allow it to impose tolls on the new crossing.
Using these powers would enable the project to go ahead more quickly. Otherwise a hybrid bill would be needed to enable tolls to be imposed.
Halton is leading the consortium of local authorities and business groups that is promoting construction of the bridge.
It hopes to win funding for the procurement and planning process in this year's comprehensive spending review. The aim is to start construction by 2007.
The council is reluctantly considering tolling the new bridge because it fears it will not get enough central government funding to cover construction costs.
The New Mersey Crossing is intended to relieve the congested four lane single carriageway Silver Jubilee bridge at Runcorn built in 1961, which currently handles 80,000 vehicles a day This is the only major crossing of the Mersey on the 36km stretch between the Thelwall viaduct on the M6 and the Mersey tunnels.
www. merseycrossing.co.uk (see also page 13 for more details on the Stop the Cuts campaign)