COMMUTERS will be breathing a sigh of relief as major routes for the Mersey Gateway Project open eight weeks ahead of schedule.

The early Christmas present for residents in Frodsham, Helsby and the surrounding areas was announced this week, with three of the several routes due to reopen on Thursday.

Routes from Daresbury and Bridgewater Expressways to the southbound Central Expressway, towards Halton Lea, will open on Thursday and drivers will be able to use the new Bridgewater Junction to reach the Central Expressway too.

The slip road from Weston Link to Weston Point Expressway southbound, towards M56 junction 12, which has caused major traffic delays for residents, will also reopen tomorrow.

Hugh O’Connor, general manager for Merseylink, said: “We’re very pleased to be opening the links between the Daresbury and Bridgewater Expressways and the Central Expressway ahead of schedule.

"As we move into 2017 we’re starting quite an intense final phase of the works but the good news is that this coming year will see more and more roads re-opening and ultimately see the new bridge open to traffic in the autumn.”

The centerpiece of the Mersey Gateway Project – a new six-lane toll bridge linking Widnes and Runcorn – is due to open later in 2017.

“At this point the Silver Jubilee Bridge will be closed for between nine and 12 months whilst it is refurbished with enhanced crossing facilities for pedestrains and cyclists. The Silver Jubilee Bridge will also be tolled when it re-opens.”

Despite the welcome announcement, from January 3 the northbound Central Expressway between Halton Brow and Bridgewater Junction will close for three months – which means there will be no direct access from the northbound Central Expressway to the Bridgewater Expressway.

A signed diversion will be in place. The link from the Central Expressway to the Bridgewater Expressway is being closed whilst the road bridge over the Bridgewater Canal is repaired.

The start of January will also see a three-month lane closure on a short stretch of the southbound Weston Point Expressway as it approaches the M56 junction 12 between Rocksavage Interchange and Weston Point Junction.

A spokeswoman said: “There is no official diversion route as the road will still be open but we recommend that motorists who are planning to travel eastbound along the M56 towards Warrington, Manchester and the M6 head along the Bridgewater and Daresbury Expressways and use junction 11 of the M56 to continue their journey.

“This will help to minimise any disruption to journey times whilst this essential work is undertaken.”