THE iconic £600 million Mersey Gateway could inadvertently turn Runcorn into a flourishing tourist attraction.

Feeder roads leading to the existing Silver Jubilee bridge blocked the top flight of Bridgewater Canal locks, leaving the town a dead end for boaters.

But, now as bridge traffic will be re-directed to the new crossing, slip roads will be dismantled, paving the way to restore the canal link.

Residents have launched an unlock Runcorn campaign to raise awareness and kickstart plans to fund the ambitious project, set to cost millions.

They plan to stage a ‘big dig’ in August to demonstrate their determination.

Campaigner Noel Hutchinson, aged 45, from The Heath, said:”We can ultimately unlock the potential of the old town, bring money in. Shopkeepers are behind it as we could regenerate the area.

“If successful, this would mean that a huge amount of tourists would suddenly start to pass through the old town with all the spin offs that can have for the community.

“The new route would be vastly attractive as it would create a second Cheshire ring, linking us to the Manchester Ship Canal, the Weaver Navigation, Anderton Boat Lift and Norton Priory.”

Halton MP Derek Twigg joined Runcorn Locks Restoration Society to walk along the route of the old canal.

He said: “This offers an opportunity to move the project forward but it will need the support of all the relevant bodies to help it to come to fruition.

“I have promised to work with campaigners and Halton Council.”

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