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

Electric HGV’s powered by overhead lines – Is it a possible future?

From this to electrically powered HGV’s?

www.flickr.com/photos/mwmbwls/36419388584/in/contacts/

The link above is to a photo together with a short write up on Flickr but it’s really worth looking at as it could just be a possible future without diesel pollution.

Thinking of the air pollution in and around Bootle due to HGV’s accessing the Port of Liverpool (and of course HGV pollution everywhere else too) this must be looked at as a serious alternative to us all being poisoned by traffic pollution.

My friend Bob, who provided the lead to this posting says – I think the point to stress is that this is still experimental and that there would be a host of road management issues to address such as how overtaking would be organised; how to integrate with existing cars and non electric trucks at motorway junctions. There is also a big debate looming about platooning HGVs using anti collision technologies. It may be that dedicated truck ways are the answer – similar to the Leigh busway- although the trough/ dolly wheel steering guidance system could probably be obsolete by then.

The big plus would be if the existing road from the docks was put into a tunnel – electric trucks would be ideal for underground operation.

Photo credit on Flickr link is to Siemens.

Port of Liverpool – Spending Millions but nowhere to spend a Penny

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

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

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-38610432

The BBC has the story on its web site – see link above

Makes you wonder how when so much investment is going into the Port of Liverpool such a basic necessity of life i.e. toilets have been overlooked.

The other odd part of the BBC story that struck me was why it was seemingly being suggested that local councils should provide toilet facilities. Now I could just about understand the Port saying to say Sefton Council can you erect appropriate toilets and run then for us and we will pay whatever the cost is. But if the suggestion is that Sefton Council provide toilets funded from the public purse that is surely a non-runner.

Launch of SCAR to fight road building plans to access Port of Liverpool

The Sefton Communities Against Roadbuilding (SCAR) Campaign

www.scar.network/

I mentioned the impending launch of this new web site and organisation not so long ago and here it is – see link above.

There are numerous postings on this blog site about the consequences of the building of the new (Post Panamax)Liverpool 2 Dock. The most recent is available via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/11/13/port-of-liverpool-cranes-v-the-environment-and-the-launch-of-scar/

This is probably the greatest environmental challenge facing the Borough of Sefton right now. As I have said many times before the cart has been constructed before anyone knew where a horse could be found to pull it. In this case the new dock has been built but the transport infrastructure to support it is only being considered now!

Sefton Council has buried its head hoping no one will notice that they should have been leading the public debate. Labour have jumped on a lets build a tunnel band wagon knowing that such a solution is not even on the drawing board of Highways England. But that’s a smoke screen to make it look to the casual observer as though they are doing something, at least that’s what Labour seems to be hoping.

This new residents only group (and that’s interesting in itself i.e. no Bootle councillors) is the voice of communities in Netherton and Litherland who are sick of being ignored. I wish them luck.

Port of Liverpool – Cranes V The environment? – And the launch of SCAR

Now we all want more jobs to be created in Sefton (except senior Civil Service leaders who are withdrawing them in large numbers from the Borough) and indeed across Merseyside but when those jobs come at a price of potentially compromising our environment the issue clearly needs more thought.

How can these massive cranes and a Country Park be linked?

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

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

The bottom tip of Rimrose Valley Country Park gets to within half a mile of Seaforth docks.

The bottom tip of Rimrose Valley Country Park gets to within half a mile of Seaforth docks.

They are linked because Highways England is presently proposing that a new road be built down the middle of the Country Park to provide greater highway capacity to the newly enlarged docks. And of course thereby is the huge dilemma.

Rimrose Valley Country Park

Rimrose Valley Country Park

On the one hand we want the jobs on the other we want to protect our environment. It seems at this location we can’t have both. The ‘green’ issues are not just ripping up a country park to put a road through it but human health matters such as HGV diesel pollution and noise too. Life expectancy in parts of the Bootle Constituency is not good compared with other parts of the Borough of Sefton and I am willing to bet that air pollution plays into such concerns. The present A5036 already has HGV’s thundering up and down it day and night as they access the Port of Liverpool from the end of the M57 & M58 Motorways at Switch Island. Bigger port = more HGV’s = greater risk of pollution.

It seems to be a given that if the port becomes more successful then the consequence is more freight moving to and from it via the A5036 corridor and possibly by rail. Adding in another road down the Rimrose Valley can only lead to a greater chance of increased air pollution.

Leeds Liverpool Canal through Rimrose Valley Country Park.

Leeds Liverpool Canal through Rimrose Valley Country Park.

And what of the railway to the docks? Will it be improved and electrified to be able to carry more freight? Well it seems not at present and that has to be a big worry as an electrified railway could take freight to and from the docks with little or no pollution locally.

I have been very critical of Sefton Council’s sit back and watch approach to this issue in recent years and now we have the ludicrous situation where the docks have been built but there are no improved transport facilities to service it.

So what’s going to solve the A5036 transport capacity crisis that is looming? How is pollution from HGV’s going to be managed and indeed reduced as surely it has to be? Will a radical rail solution be brought forward? Or will Highways England build their new road and to hell with the environmental consequences?

There is already a group called Rimrose Valley Friends who campaign for the upkeep and future of this country park and later this month a new sister/associated organisation is being launched called SCAR – Sefton Communities Against Road Building. You can see some initial information about it via the link below:-

www.rimrosevalleyfriends.org/news/upcoming-anti-roadbuilding-campaign-group-scar-sefton-communities-against-roadbuilding/

I think it’s fair to say that things are hotting up in the communities near to Liverpool 2 and that sit alongside the A5036 and the Rimrose Valley Country Park.

Bootle – Mouth of the Mersey

I thought I would share these two photographs which I took some 15 months apart. The changes in Bootle and Seaforth’s dockland area in this short period of time is striking.

April 2015

Mouth of the Mersey

July 2016

Mouth of the Mersey II

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Both photos are amongst my Flickr shots at:-

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