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Mersey crossing inquiry finishes

25 June 09 14:21 GMT

A public inquiry into plans to build a second bridge across the River Mersey has finished.

A decision is expected within six months on the planned £431m Mersey Gateway toll crossing, linking Runcorn and Widnes.

It would ease congestion on the Silver Jubilee Bridge and create jobs, Halton Borough Council said.

Opponents of the scheme said that tolls planned for both bridges would cast an "economic blight" across the area.

Under the proposals, users of the existing - and free to cross - bridge would also be charged tolls once the new crossing opens.

Iconic structure

Campaign group the National Alliance Against Tolls (NAAT) claimed it would the first time that a toll had been put on a previously free bridge in England.

The 0.6 mile (1km) crossing would be visible from the Pennines and designers hope it will prove to be an iconic structure and symbol of the North West of England.

The toll to cross the six-lane bridge has yet to be determined.

If the public inquiry approves the project, construction would start in 2011 ahead of its opening in 2014.

The inquiry, which was held in Widnes, has lasted five weeks.

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