Chancellor pledges to investigate possibility of free bridge tolls for Halton residents

Runcorn and Widnes World: What the Mersey Gateway will look like What the Mersey Gateway will look like

CHANCELLOR George Osborne has pledged to consider a request from MPs to provide free tolls for Halton residents to cross the new Mersey Gateway and the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge.

At a private meeting in Westminster, he told a cross party group of MPs, including Halton MP Derek Twigg and Weaver Vale MP Graham Evans, that he would investigate the possibility of securing extra funding.

It follows a u-turn by the Government to abolish plans to toll a road in East Anglia because it is an existing local route.

A £1.5 billion scheme to improve and widen a 25-mile stretch of the A14 near Cambridge will now be funded by taxpayers.

The borough’s two MPs claim Halton residents are entitled to the same concession.

Mr Twigg, who has campaigned relentlessly for free residents’ tolls, said: “The Halton situation is unique. No other borough in the country has a local road currently used for people to go shopping, work, college or hospital that will be tolled.

“Mr Osborne did genuinely listen carefully to what we had to say. He said he would look at the situation, see if there were any solutions and get back to us.

“It was a fair hearing. I hope he makes the right decision.”

Mr Evans said: “We are arguing that Halton is a special case. No other community divided by a river has to pay tolls.

“I am confident he will seriously look at what we put to him.”

It would cost an estimated £8 million a year to provide Halton residents with free tolls.

Halton Council is offering 300 free trips a year for an annual registration fee of £10. The cost of crossing for everyone else will be £2 when the bridge opens in 2017.

The Mersey Gateway

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