MOTORISTS on the Thelwall Viaduct should ‘watch out’ if the new Mersey crossing is built, according to a campaigner on the first day of a public inquiry today.

Inspector Alan Gray will scrutinise the £400million Mersey Gateway project – set to create 4,640 new jobs – at a the inquiry.

The hearing, expected to last for six weeks, is being held at Stobart Stadium in Widnes.

Around 70 people attended the opening on Tuesday with both sides lined up to present boxes of evidence.

Lillian Burns was the first objector to speak for The Alliance, representing Friends of the Earth, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the NW Transport Activist Roundtable.

She said: “It would appear that all the structural works could be more than £1billion, not the half billion usually quoted.

“The new bridge is due to open in 2015 and the operator only has 27 years, until 2042, to recover costs and make a profit and then hand it back to Halton Council.”

She claims it will not be commercially viable.

“From evidence of the M6 toll, HGVs won’t use it unless they have to.

“M6 Thelwall watch out, you won’t know what’s hit you if the new bridge is built and tolled.”

Instead, she proposed “a very modest toll” should be levied on the existing bridge and the money ploughed into public transport, instead of investing in a second crossing.

David Parr, chief executive of Halton Council, said: “This is another milestone in our journey.

“We are very confident we have a powerful and persuasive case.

“We are hoping to do our best to convince the inspector so we can get started and deliver something that will change people’s lives.

“This is a bridge to prosperity not just a piece of iconic infrastructure.”