Aintree – Is the mothballed Nth Mersey Branch a Port of Liverpool access opportunity going begging?

Just south of Aintree Station there’s still a rail connection to the overgrown and mothballed North Mersey Branch, which heads off in the direction of the Port of Liverpool and Bootle. Here and above are a couple of shots of the rail connection as it is now:-

Both shots were taken from the end of the Liverpool bound platform of Aintree Station.

Surely it (the Nth Mersey Branch) could be, at least in part, a sensible contribution to the accessing the expanding Port of Liverpool. I might add that Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson wants a railway in a tunnel but Labour-run Sefton Council wants a road tunnel. Friends of the Earth are calling on Labour Mersey Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham to come out against the surface road solutions – I’m not aware that he has. Presently, Highways England are pressing ahead with their plans for a new road down and through Rimrose Valley Country Park.

The North Mersey Branch once went all the way to the docks (Gladstone Dock) but the the dock connection was removed many years ago, it connects the Southport – Liverpool and Ormskirk – Liverpool Merseyrail lines these days but it’s not been used (mothballed) for many a year. Merseytravel, the public transport arm of the Liverpool City Region, say they have long-term plans to reopen the branch for passenger traffic which was withdrawn from it and the former Ford and Linacre Road Stations in April 1951.

I recall going to the first public consultation event (a few years back) about how the expanding Port of Liverpool could be accessed by freight. On seeing only Highways England there I asked where Network Rail were so that the rail options could be talked through too. The answer was along the lines of they weren’t there and were not in reality a part of the process! I despaired then and I still do now…….

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Rimrose Valley – Big Brother’s been watching the environmental campaigners

Rimrose Valley Country Park.

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/government-hired-undercover-spies-public-17873506

Back to 1984? I did not get to either of the 2 events mentioned in the article although I was at the Friends of the Earth event regarding trying to save Rimrose Valley Country Park from Highways England’s proposed new road. Surely I must be on their watch list by now, I do hope so.

Could Heathrow Climate Change victory cause a Rimrose rethink?

Friends of the Earth has the article on its website – see link below

friendsoftheearth.uk/climate-change/heathrow-third-runway-uk-government-actions-ruled-illegal

Rimrose Valley Country Park.

The FotE court victory is very welcome news indeed but it immediately got me thinking about the potential knock-on effects of the ruling for other transport projects in the pipeline which need to be rethought because of the Climate Emergency that has been declared.

Unsurprisingly my thoughts have turned to the Highways England plan to build a road right down the Rimrose Valley Country Park to create better freight access to the Port of Liverpool and I’m sure I’m not the only one having such thoughts.

It also makes you realise that Sefton Council’s Judicial Review of Highways England’s Port of Liverpool Access Road was utterly on the wrong grounds. If they’d made the challenge on basis of climate change as opposed to wanting a road tunnel they could well have won!

Port of Liverpool and Brexit – Some interesting questions & big challenges

Stena Precision at Birkenhead *

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

www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51329176

The Mersey – Looking from Bootle over the River to the Wirral

Of course, if the Port of Liverpool succeeds in gaining more trade the consequences swing back to that very knotty problem of land transport access to the Port, the over-capacity of the A5036 (Port to Switch Island road link), the lack of capacity of the rail link to the port (plus poor/limited regional rail capacity) and the new road proposed to be built through Rimrose Valley Country Park.

Rimrose Valley Country Park in the foreground and the Port cranes in the background.

Access to Port of Liverpool and that oddly timed judicial review

Work on the new River Berth taking place in August 2015

I’ve posted many times about access to the Port of Liverpool and the lovely Rimrose Valley Country Park being chosen to have a new road driven right through it to provide that additional access. But what was Sefton Council’s Cabinet trying to achieve with the judicial review that they launched in October 2017?

Cranes at Liverpool 2’s deep water river berth for colossal sized contain ships, Seaforth.

What an odd question you might say, but hear me out.

I’ve been reading a report which went to Sefton Council’s Cabinet on 28th February 2013, nearly 7 years ago now. It starts off with the words ‘As part of the City Region Deal, a Port Access Steering Group (Chaired by Sefton Council) has been established’ so who was running this group is very clear. The report was all about bidding for money to assist in developing and providing improved access to the Port via the Trans European Transport Network (TEN-T). That same report goes on to say ‘Sefton Council has been leading the coordination of City Region activities associated with port access on behalf of the City Region Partners.’

Now let’s look at an interesting chain of events:-

February 2014 – Atkins [consultants] report for Highway England (Access to the Port of Liverpool Feasibility Study) considers 2 major options i.e. a rebuild of the A5036 or a new road down the Rimrose Valley. It also considered the alternative option of a tunnel which it effectively rejected on the grounds of cost. Remember that happened in February 2014.
November 2014 – Atkins make a presentation to the Liverpool City Region Port Access Steering Group (led by Sefton Council) where the tunnel options were considered cost prohibitive.
October 2015 – Highways England publish a document entitled A5036 Port of Liverpool access Newsletter 1 It considered just 2 options. The tunnel option was not included.
January 2016 – Another Highways England Newsletter produced – Again no Tunnel option.
June 2016 – A further Highways England newsletter produced – And again no Tunnel option.
22 July 2016 – Sefton Council writes to Secretary of State for Transport formally requesting they fully consider and consult on a tunnel option.
22nd August 2016 Minister of State replies that the tunnel option would not provide value for money so rejects Sefton’s request.
31st August 2017 – Highways England adopts ‘Option B’ (new road down Rimrose Valley) – No tunnel.
19th October 2017 – Sefton Council seeks judicial review of Highways England decision of 31st August 2017 because it excluded one or more options involving a tunnel which rendered the consultation so unfair as to be unlawful.

My point with this timeline is this. Why did Sefton Council’s Cabinet wait until July 2016 to request the Secretary of State for Transport to fully consider a tunnel option when this option had effectively been rejected back in February 2014? That’s almost 2 and half years before!

It is of course no surprise that it was argued that the claim (made in October 2017) for a judicial review was out of time as such a review should be brought promptly and in normal circumstances not later than 3 months after the grounds to make the claim first arose. Those grounds arguably first arose in February 2014 or possibly more likely in October 2015 if my reading of the situation is correct. Which all begs the question of what was Sefton Council’s Cabinet was trying to achieve? Had it been leading the Port Access Steering Group or protesting about what had come about as a consequence of the activity of that group, Highways England and its consultants?

The Council must have known it was effectively out of time for a successful judicial review yet it still pursued one. The fact that it lost the review can surely have been no surprise what so ever. Clearly, to me anyway, the serious objection to the lack of a tunnel option within the process should have been taken forward as early as May 2014 or more likely January 2016, so why wasn’t it? The answer to that question we can only speculate upon but to me the activities of the Cabinet make little sense. To have waited until October 2017 to go for a judicial review is bizarre as the writing was clearly on the wall from the consultant’s report in February 2014.

Answers on a postcard………….

Rimrose Valley Country Park – Fight against new road goes on……..

An idyllic view of Rimrose Valley Country Park

Highways England are to run 2 information sessions about their plans to build a road through this beautiful Country Park. Details of the events are on the Rimrose Valley Friends website – see link below:-

www.rimrosevalleyfriends.org/news/important-update-highways-england-information-sessions/

Tuesday 22 October 2019 between 2pm and 8pm
at the SING Plus Centre, 53 Cambridge Road,
Seaforth, Liverpool, L21 1EZ; and

Thursday 24 October 2019 between 2pm and 8pm
at The Park Hotel, Dunnings Bridge Road, Liverpool
L30 6YN