Coal – It once kept food on the tables of my mining community

A biomass train at Liverpool’s Seaforth Dock headed for Drax Power Station when full of wood pellets.

The BBC has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52973089

As an environmental campaigner this story on the BBC website obviously interests me, not least because I was born and lived my early years (late 1950’s/early 1960’s) in a community dependent on the coal mines surrounding it. Of course it has to be good news that we have gone for 2 months without needing to use coal to generate power and at some point in the not too distant future power from coal in the UK will be all but a distant memory.

However, within the BBC article there’s mention of Drax Power Station running on biomass wood pellets and the photo at the head of this posting shows a biomass train at Liverpool’s Seaforth Dock. That train takes the imported pellets to Drax which have been delivered to the UK by ship. My point here is what are the carbon implications of producing the pellets bringing them by a diesel powered ship to the UK and then taking them across the north of England by a diesel powered train?

It may well be the case that the power station is all but carbon neutral and far more environmentally friendly than it was when it burned traditional fossil fuels but is biomass really as green as we are being led to believe when you take into account deforestation and the energy used to produce and deliver the wood pellets to Drax? It would be interesting to see any background work done by environmental scientists on this.

This article from the i newspaper (linked below) tackles some of the issues I have concerns about:-

inews.co.uk/news/environment/uk-drax-power-plant-burning-us-trees-wood-pellets-deforestation-303461

And for the context of my family involvement in coal mining here’s a blog posting about that from 2019:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/06/02/nottinghamshire-the-miners-strike/

Rimrose Valley Country Park, Labour politics and rail freight (or the lack of it) from Liverpool Docks

Rimrose Valley Country Park

How do these 3 disparate subjects fit together? Quite easily actually.

So the Port of Liverpool is expanding, that’s hardly new news but the consequences of the expansion brings with it quite a lot of bad environmental news.

You see the once well rail connected port is not so well connected to the national railway network these days. There is still one rail link with Seaforth Container Base/Liverpool 2 but just about the only rail freight moved via it are the biomass trains serving Drax Power Station. Containers have not been moved from Seaforth for quite some time now. Here’s a couple of shots of trains waiting to be loaded from the next biomass loaded ship to dock:-

So having established that little freight moves from Seaforth Docks via the national rail network and of course being aware of the expanding docks leads you pretty much to the rather obvious conclusion that the containers are being moved by road. And as the Port expands the big worry is that even more freight will move by road and that’s why Highways England want to build a new access road to the docks down the lovely Rimrose Valley Country Park.

Locals living along side the A5036 road corridor are already sick of the rumbling trucks accessing the Port and the air pollution that goes with their diesel engines. For those unsure about the A5036 it links Switch Island and the M57 and M58 Motorways to the docks.

But putting another road (in effect paralleling the A5036) right through a Country Park is hardly the solution to get locals on board with and unsurprisingly they (Rimrose Valley Friends) have said ‘no way’ and have launched a campaign to try to stop the new road ruining their Country Park. Here’s a couple of shots of their protest placards:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-43085594

So an impasse has been reached and at face value the local council – Sefton Borough – is on the right side of the argument (as witnessed via the link above to the BBC web site) as it is backing the environmental campaigners against Highways England. But as with many big infrastructure projects things are not quite how they seem as the inaction of the Council over many years, whilst the the port has been expanding, is in fact one very big reason why the residents living near the Rimrose Valley Country Park and alongside the A5036 are where they are now.

It was obvious to me whilst I was on Sefton Council that Bootle Labour did not want to discuss access to the Port, it seemed to be their Brexit issue if you use the analogy of national Labour today being unwilling to debate the most pressing public policy issue of our present times.

The consequence of this inaction was that the port expanded whilst no one locally really had an eye on how freight was going to access it, no one that is but what was then the Highways Agency and is now Highways England.

But why did Bootle Labour sit back and watch? Probably because they realised the problem was intractable and difficult to solve. Easier to let others come up with solutions and then blast those ideas than to try to help solve the issue by leading the debate. A problem ignored is a problem that comes back, as is happening now, but this admittedly difficult matter should have been addressed a long time ago but Bootle Labour hid behind the sofa.

Click on the photos to enlarge them