CITY of Chester MP Chris Matheson has welcomed the news a bottleneck bridge near the city centre may finally be getting some much-needed improvements.

Plans to revamp Chester Railway Station and the area surrounding it have been a key part of the Chester City Gateway project, which aims to boost transport links to the city.

Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cabinet agreed to take forward the plans, which include improved access to the city via the Hoole Bridge, which is a regular cause of rush-hour traffic jams owing to its narrow nature, with safety concerns for cyclists and pedestrians regularly highlighted.

News the bridge could be improved in future was welcomed by Chester Labour MP Chris Matheson, who said: "It is fantastic to see some progress on this project, particularly the Hoole Bridge, which local people regularly contact me about.

"This is not just about the bridge though; it is about improving the gateway to our city, from the motorway to the Supertrees.

"To move forward into future stages of development it will need significant funding from a range of sources, and I look forward to working with the council to win support for the project from government ministers.”

The Hoole Bridge has been in the public eye for a number of years and local residents like Adam Dandy, Mark Williams and Steve Howe have petitioned the council to take action.

Businessman Mr Dandy said: “We welcome this step forward. The safety of pedestrians and cyclists has always been our main priority and we will continue to push for these concerns to be addressed as the plans develop further.”

Improvements planned for Chester Railway Station itself include an additional platform and new east junction that would allow up to nine more train movements to and through the station.

The Chester City Gateway project has also focused on the production of a masterplan for the land around Chester rail station to identify opportunities for improved links to the city centre, and looking at the transport links for road, pedestrians and bikes from the M53 to the Fountains Roundabout.

Councillor Richard Beacham, Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration and Growth said: “This project is about bringing forward a bold vision for a new gateway into Chester.

"It is about looking for opportunities to address some of the key challenges we face in terms of road, bike, train and pedestrian travel in this area of the city and thinking about how we can overcome these whilst simultaneously identifying land for new housing and commercial premises to grow our local economy.

“Regeneration of the public estate in the area will be the missing link, joining the railway station, the bus interchange and the city centre.

“The Chester City Gateway has the potential to attract significant investment into Chester, delivering on the One City Plan. This is the next step in the process; but this recent decision is a giant leap in the right direction to deliver on this very exciting project for our borough.”

Cabinet approved the submission of an outline business case to the Department for Transport for further investment as part of the national development process for rail schemes.

Approval to produce a masterplan and spatial plan for the Chester City Gateway area, together with consideration of the financial viability was unanimously agreed.

The plans will be brought forward by the council in partnership with Network Rail and London Continental Railways. All three partners will contribute equally to the development costs, around £68,000 each.

The development phase is scheduled to take up to one year.

The Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has prepared a major transport scheme study to identify local priorities.

One of its priorities is to improve local connectivity around the Chester City Gateway area.

The council has secured a funding contribution of £65,000 from the LEP to commission a ‘Hoole Bridge/A56 Corridor’ study to match-fund the £65,000 identified from council funds.