The likely cost of putting an extra road crossing over the river Wye east of Hereford has nearly tripled, throwing its future into doubt.

Originally expected to cost around £56 million, the forecast figure for the bridge, and road connection linking the A438 Ledbury Road with the Rotherwas industrial estate, is now around £150 million, a 168 per cent rise, according to the council’s head of transport policy.

Cabinet member for transport Coun Philip Price said in a written answer that the figure came from an as-yet unpublished strategic outline business case (SOBC) for the project, adding: “It clearly no longer looks such an attractive proposition.”

“Whilst I have no doubt that the eastern river crossing would add some resilience to the highway network, I continue to believe that the city’s economy and need for housing would be better served by a western bypass,” he said.

This came in response to a question from his Independents for Herefordshire predecessor John Harrington, a champion of the eastern crossing.

The project “will deliver a bridge more quickly, more efficiently and for less environmental and financial cost, was agreed as policy by full council, and has been championed by the business community and our MP”, Mr Harrington said.

He asked what had happened to the SOBC document, “that was supposed to land in spring”.

Coun Price replied: “When the final report has been received, it will be presented to cabinet for consideration, but I do not see any value in publishing it out of context.”

Reviving the western city bypass, a project cancelled by the previous administration, was a central pledge of the Conservatives’ successful election campaign in the county last May.

The resulting de-trunking of the A49 through the city would “hand responsibility for local accessibility and traffic improvements back to the council”, Coun Price pointed out.