THE team paving the way for the £600 million Mersey Gateway bridge swapped shovels and JCBs for dinghies and fishing nets to rehome 680 fish in Widnes.

They transferred carp, perch, roach, mullet and eels from one part of the St Helens Canal in West Bank to another.

Victoria Pollard, Merseylink environmental manager said :“This enabled two clay dams to be installed in the canal to provide a dry area which could be filled with engineered stone to continue construction of the haul road across the canal.

“The fish rescue involved using a specially designed tool that generates a mild current, to lure fish towards the nets.

“The fish were captured and transferred into a bucket of canal water on the dinghy before being rehomed back in another section of the canal.”

The water in the 60-metre stretch was pumped back into the canal, using a specially-designed filter system to ensure fish were not sucked into the pump.

The work was carried out by aquatic survey specialist Apem.

Halton Council leader, Clr Rob Polhill, said: “This is an excellent example of how the project team is working to protect the wildlife on and around the construction site of the new Mersey Gateway bridge.

"The preservation of wildlife and wildlife habitats is of paramount importance to the residents of Halton, and has been taken into consideration for all elements of the project."

The six lane tolled crossing is due to open in 2017.

Engineers are now building two haul roads on each side of the River Mersey so workers and materials can reach the site.

Both access roads will lead to a temporary wooden trestle bridge which will allow construction traffic to cross the river.