WORCESTER'S busy Carrington Bridge is expected to be dualled by 2021 – with a timescale for the exciting £70 million revamp revealed for the first time.

Council chiefs want to start work on the long-awaited overhaul in "early 2019", with the bigger bridge in place and open just two years later.

It is the first time Worcestershire County Council has gone public on its target date for enlarging the bridge, which suffers severe congestion.

The Worcester News can reveal how the Government has handed over £500,000 to 'fast track' the county's funding bid, which is going towards a detailed final business case.

That will be submitted by March, and we understand ministers have told county decision makers they will get an answer this summer on their £70 million bid.

But as a statement of intent, the council has now gone public on its timeline for the bridge, saying the Department for Transport is firmly "recognising its ranking" as a fast track scheme.

It also says say the scheme will result in "a new bridge over the River Severn parallel to the existing Carrington Bridge", meaning the current structure will not have to be knocked down.

The dates have been revealed in a report going to the Conservative cabinet tomorrow, which states that £1.7 million has been spent on preparation work so far.

The report says to "continue the progress" another £1.5 million will need to be allocated to it next month.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has already signed off a series of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) on land around other sections of the Southern Link Road.

Tomorrow the cabinet will be asked to approve CPOs on some land around Carrington Bridge "in case it is not possible to acquire the land by negotiation".

Cllr Ken Pollock, cabinet member for economy, skills and infrastructure, has reiterated his desire to dual the bridge by calling it "essential".

"The timetable is crucial and we believe we have a really good business case," he said.

"There is quite a bit of competition but we are hopeful and anticipate a decision in the summer."

Worcester's MP Robin Walker said: "This sends out real message and will strengthen the case to the Government.

"It's important we had something 'in sight' so this is very good news.

"We're getting to the stage now where we need those detailed plans in place because the Government likes what we call 'shovel ready' schemes."

A current £42 million project to dual the rest of the A4440 Southern Link Road, which is used by 30,000 vehicles each weekday, is due to wrap up in early 2019.

Council chiefs say a "do nothing" option would have resulted in a 30 per cent increase in waiting times by 2026, but critics have been concerned that the bottleneck will only be significantly eased once Carrington Bridge is dualled.