GREEN campaigners are celebrating after plans for a new toll motorway slicing through the South Cheshire countryside were scrapped.
The controversial M6 Expressway project has been shelved and instead the Highways Agency is to plough more than £3billion into a scheme to widen it to eight lanes to ease congestion and reduce accidents on one of the busiest stretches of motorway in the country.
South Cheshire Friends of the Earth (FoE) members say they have a new battle on their hands to see the money spent on schemes which will help take cars off the road.
Whilst calling for better signage and junction improvements to boost safety, they say it would make better sense to pour funds into public transport and incentive schemes encouraging employers to stagger work start times.
South Cheshire FoE campaigns co-ordinator Tania Sayer said: 'We are delighted at the news but our campaign is not over yet.
'It's madness to spend so much money on widening a road when our public transport system is crying out for investment.
'By staggering work times we could dramatically ease congestion. We will be putting forward a package of measures to reduce carbon emissions from transport and en-courage better use of public transport.
'We will be campaigning for the £3billion to be spent in a sustainable way.'
The Government had planned to build an expressway between Junction 11A north of Birmingham to just north of Junction 19 at Tabley on land running parallel to the existing motorway passing through South Cheshire.
After facing massive opposition, its Highways Agency has axed the idea, plumping instead for a widening of the M6 by one lane in each direction.
A new road, it concluded, would swallow up too much land and its building would be unlikely to hit a target date of 2017.
Its construction would also lead to years of disruption and delays.
Transport Minister Stephen Lady-man said: 'The extra works, land required and costs involved do not support further work on the expressway.'
National Farming Union officials have also issued a cautious welcome to the news, with regional spokes-woman Helen Little, saying: 'Farmers appreciate the need to accommodate rising levels of traffic on this stretch. Our industry, as with any other, will benefit from a free flowing, less congested M6.
'But it is inevitable the widening will lead to disruption for those living and working nearby.'