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 – New road protests against Highway’s England’s Plans

Rimrose Valley Country Park map.

The BBC has the latest story regarding the protests against the proposed new road on its web site – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-45698331

Footpath and cycle path through the lovely Rimrose Valley County Park

Separately I’m hearing, via informed railway sources, that the lack of progress with regard to improved rail freight facilities/rail connections to the Port of Liverpool may be putting Network Rail in the spotlight. It seems clear to me that the less containers that go by train to and from the Port then the more will have to go via road.

Class 66 Diesel Locos at Seaforth Container Terminal

I also understand that the biomass trains from the Port to Drax Power Station need to travel by a more direct rail route to feed the ongoing demand. Having said that it’s debatable, to me, how long these wood pellet trains will run as the environmental benefits of the fuel are at best dubious.

Happy to correct anything in this posting if my sources are not correct.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Liverpool 2 – A busier port means yet more traffic on A5036 & a road through Rimrose Valley Country Park!

Seaforth Docks seen from the Mersey with work going on to construct the river berth for Post-Panamax ships in August 2015.

There is every danger that I’ll do this subject to death but the fact remains that building the new river berth at the Port of Liverpool well before the transport infrastructure to cope with the increased freight traffic was put in place was at best a very odd idea.

The Liverpool Echo has the story of the new river berth’s progress towards bringing in more and bigger ships to the port on its web site – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/business/peel-says-more-big-ships-15015748

Rimrose Valley Country Park map.

Highways England announced recently that it intends to construct a brand new road down the Rimrose Valley Country Park to address the increasing port traffic and the opposition to that new road plan is gathering pace via the Rimrose Valley Friends whose web site can be accessed via the link below:-

www.rimrosevalleyfriends.org/

Rimrose Valley Country Park – I had it all to myself early yesterday morning

I enjoy cycling down the Rimrose Valley, it’s a lovely green oasis amongst the hustle and bustle of the crowded part of Sefton Borough. So sad then that Highways England are to drive a new road right through the heart of it

Early last Sunday morning it felt like I had the whole valley to myself and then on the horizon the reason that the road is going to be built came into view (see photo above), the gantry cranes of Liverpool 2.

I’ve blogged about this more times than I care to recall as it has been one of the most ludicrous pieces of regional planning that you could imagine. Best described as a cart before horse scenario, the new deep water dock (built to cater for huge container ships) was constructed before the transport infrastructure needed to serve it was detailed, consulted upon or planning permission given – never mind even built.

You really would do well to make a story like this up. Now of course locals living around the Rimrose Valley are protesting about what Highways England are planning to construct through their green oasis. The latest news seems to be that Highways England are ploughing on regardless and they will not say when they are to start building the road so to keep the protestors on their toes. What a carry on………………

Click on the photos to enlarge them

The second photo is also amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Time Lapse – Liverpool 2

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

www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZL_LYsb_uw

The time lapse video is on You Tube – see link above

Yes I know the new Liverpool 2 container terminal is controversial because it was built before the transport access for freight to and from it was sorted out – cart before horse I’ve heard it called – but this time lapse video is actually quite interesting and worth looking at