PROJECT chiefs behind the proposed Mersey Gateway scheme hope the new man at the helm of the Department for Transport will give it the green light.

Conservative Philip Hammond has been installed as the new Secretary of State for Transport in the Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition Government.

Both parties have announced plans to drastically cut Government spending during the next year in an effort to cope with the country’s crippling deficit.

And Mr Hammond says the country’s precarious financial position means the Government will not be able to fund any major road-building projects.

But he has voiced his backing for road tolls as a means to fund such projects being built by the private sector instead.

The Mersey Gateway scheme would make extensive use of private-sector backing.

Of the total £431m cost, £86m is planned to come from Government coffers and the rest would be ploughed in by private contractors.

The companies would make their money back by tolling drivers during the next 30 years.

Cllr Tony McDermott, chairman of the Mersey Gateway Group, said: “Over the course of the last 12 years we have worked closely with politicians from all the main political parties.

“We remain confident that we can see this project though to fruition.

“All the main parties supported the case for a new crossing during the recent election campaign.

“And now that the new cabinet team has been finalised we will be doing all we can to press the case for a timely approval of the project.”

Before the election, previous transport minister Lord Adonis said the Gateway would be given the go-ahead if Labour was returned to power.