A HUGE power-generating tidal barrage providing transport links from the M6 to Barrow and Millom is one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to the latest stage of an ambitious £8bn project.

The Northern Tidal Power Gateways scheme would use a series of tidal turbines to stretch around Morecambe Bay while giving motorists a long-awaited link between the M6 and Barrow and Millom.

Northern Tidal Power Gateways is the brainchild of Alan Torevell, chair of Dewhurst Torevell, who has been leading the project since its inception four years ago.

He said: "It is hoped that before the end of Autumn 2017 there will be sufficient confidence to move into the feasibility phase of the project, where all the necessary planning requirements will need to be met and any remaining environmental concerns alleviated, to enable a start to be made."

In the project's latest stage, engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald has been appointed to analyse how the wider economic benefits of the scheme can be captured and realised.

Initial studies have found that the gateway at Morecambe Bay could produce 6,500GWh of electricity a year - enough to power 1.5 million homes, while the Duddon Estuary gateway, across to Millom, could generate around 100GWh of electricity each year, the equivalent of powering 25,000 homes.

A tidal barrage, incorporating transport links, has long been mooted for Morecambe Bay. And in the latest development of the Gateways project, Barrow is one step closer to a direct link to the M6.

With an estimated construction cost of £8bn, those behind the plans claim the Northern Tidal Power Gateways have the potential to generate more than 7,500 construction jobs and £300m to the north west economy during construction.

David Stork, Mott MacDonald’s project director, said: "Our team will be responsible for investigating all the opportunities made possible by this development, as well as understanding the challenges that will need to be overcome to make the project feasible.

"Mott MacDonald also works on large hydropower projects around the world so we’ll be bringing that extensive expertise to the project as well."