Seaforth/Liverpool 2 – The container ship that could have sunk

The Liverpool Echo and BBC both have articles on their websites – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/crew-forced-abandon-container-ship-16324675

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-48399926

A quite remarkable listing of this huge container ship. I’ve not photographed this particular MSC vessel previously on the Mersey but here’s a sister ship of the same line:-

Click on the photo to enlarge it

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/

Access to the Port of Liverpool – An update

Work on the new River Berth taking place in August 2015

Work on the new River Berth taking place in August 2015

IMG

I return to this matter because Highways England have issued a 3rd newsletter which is now available on their web site – see link below (click the publications tab):-

www.highways.gov.uk/roads/road-projects/a5036-port-of-liverpool-access/

The map above shows what Highways England have in mind, as if we were in any doubt. Option 2 is their proposed new road down and through the Rimrose Valley Country Park. Option 1 is upgrading the A5036/Dunningsbridge Road etc.

The issues that pop out for me from this latest newsletter are:-

* The odd answer to the question which I and many others must have asked the Highways England reps at the various public events a few weeks ago. Why isn’t greater use being made of the railway network in order to distribute this additional freight? Answer – Improvements to the rail network are being considered elsewhere. The obvious follow up question is where is ‘elsewhere’ and why is there no indication of it in the newsletter?

* In a second question specifically about bringing the North Mersey rail branch line back into use Highways England give a reasonable answer but again the answer does not take us any further forward with regard to non-road solutions.

* On the positive side Highways England seem to be saying all the right things about biodiversity, green issues, air quality and noise issues, which of course we should welcome.

However, what you quickly realise is that the strong line of questioning that Highways England clearly got from the public during the first round of consultation was really about the rail connections to the docks. No surprise there of course but those of us pressing that crucial issue were talking to folk who exist to build roads! They have little or no interest in other forms of transport.

And all this brings me back to my greatest concern which I have voiced before. Why is there not a joined up consultation being undertaken including Network Rail and Sefton Council? Yes we know that Labour-run Sefton is hiding behind the sofa hoping no one will realise that they should be leading this debate and goodness knows what Network Rail are doing in reality. So all we have at present is Highways England being desperate to build a new road.

It really is time for Labour-run Sefton Council to come out from under their sofa and lead this important public debate. If Bootle Labour MP Peter Dowd can raise the issue in Parliament why can’t Labour get to grips with it at a local level? And I don’t mean photos with concerned residents in the local press! What we need is all agencies and appropriate bodies being brought together by the Council so we have a fully informed public debate. There its not so hard comrades is it? – just do it.

Acessing the Port of Liverpool – Westminster Hall debate 19th April

My last posting on this subject for a while I promise

hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-04-19/debates/16041940000002/PortOfLiverpoolRoadAndRailAccess

Above is a link to the Westminster Hall debate that I mentioned in my last posting. It makes interesting reading although the inaction of Sefton Council in recent years does not get the prominence that their sit back and watch/sit on the fence approach deserves!

And here is a link to the Liverpool Echo’s take on the debate:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-loses-out-london-gets-11211068

I get the feeling that the powers that be are actually really on board with a road ‘solution’ and that working up a credible and maximum rail solution is not on the agenda. I am with Peter Dowd here as the process needs to one of putting the maximum amount of freight on rail and only then considering the what needs to be done to improve the roads to and from the docks to Switch Island. The way we are going though it will be the maximum amount of freight by road and a token rail effort!

I still think Sefton Council should be driving this forward because as far as I can see they are just sitting back waiting to blame everyone else when they, in my view, are at fault for not bringing all the agencies together.

Access to the Port of Liverpool – Now there’s a strange coincidence

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/bootle-mp-set-demand-answers-11205293

What a strange coincidence, the very day (yesterday) that I publish the views of former Sefton Councillor Cliff Mainey on the muddle (that’s putting politely) and trouble over how freight will access the newly expanding Seaforth Dock, Bootle’s MP is raising the same issue in Parliament.

I am glad that Peter Dowd MP is raising the issue (see the link to the Liverpool Echo article, which was written before Peter raised the matter in Westminster Hall, above) but I do wonder how chuffed his Labour colleagues on the Council will be about his intervention.

Is it my imagination or has this been the subject that dare not speak its name on Labour-run Sefton Council or not?

Yes of course Peter is right to focus on the all but nothing approach of Network Rail to the port expansion and yes of course we all want as much freight as possible moved by rail out of the port but why has Sefton Council not been leading this fight?

Of course Government will need to significantly fund any road and/or rail solutions that are brought forward but surely the plans need to have been worked up at a local level. Sefton Council should have been leading this with the City Region Local Economic partnership (LEP) and the City Region Authority itself in collaboration with Highways England and Network Rail. Government is only really going to react to proposals that have been worked up and are properly evidenced. It is this work that should have been going on in detail for the past 3 or 4 years. Why has it not been done?

We should by now know what the viable solutions are and be implementing them but Highways England are just starting consultation, Network Rail seem to be stuck in the sidings and Sefton Council have run for the hills!

So yes Peter, thanks for raising the profile of this issue but dear me how much longer will it take to get everyone pointing in the right direction?

As I have said before the planning of how freight is going to get to and from the expanded docks is a scandal. I will report on what came out of the Westminster Hall debate in due course.

So what are the social & environmental impacts of expanding Seaforth Docks & why have they been all but ignored – A chat with former Sefton Councillor Cliff Mainey

This is my follow up posting to my recent missive on this subject which is accessible via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/04/16/peel-ports-new-container-terminal-at-seaforth-champion-puff-piece-ignores-the-transportation-scandal/

Cliff Mainey is a mild mannered man who sat on Sefton Council for quite a number of years through the 1990’s and up to 2012. He represented Maghull’s Sudell Ward so his interest in the consequences of the expansion of the Port of Liverpool at Seaforth may be a surprise to some who do not know him well. But Cliff hails from Litherland so knows his onions you might say. Here’s a bit of social history from Cliff to start off this lengthy but I hope interesting posting:-

I was born and raised in post war Litherland, I lived there until I was 22. Church Rd for a large part of that time was a normal two lane highway, that is one lane in either direction, changing to a dual carriageway at Kirkstone Rd. Church Rd in those days had wide grass verges lined with low hawthorn bushes on either side, a real village feel to the area.

The Litherland I recall was a close community with free movement across the ‘main road’ i.e. Church Rd. Schools, shops, churches, youth clubs; I was in English Martyrs youth club, drawing on both sides of Litherland for support and existence.

Then in the sixties all that changed never to recover. The ‘new road’ was built and Royal Seaforth Docks were developed. Jobs, jobs and even more jobs, the port was keeping pace with the world. The new road was essential. The rest is confined to the dust bin of lack of foresight.

Church Road was made into a dual carriageway from Kirkstone Road to the docks. Although the ‘planners’ did their best to reassured the people of Litherland at public meetings with subways under and bridges over the road and double/secondary glazing for those who lived on the road. I lived at 225 Church Rd. Litherland was devastated.

Shops on Church Rd, Sefton St and Kirkstone Rd lost half their customers. Even the bank closed. Children changed schools because of the road. Church Parrish communities changed. People hated the subway (not the posh butty shop) it was long, cold and wet and pretty soon problems with antisocial behaviour started, ( although?).

So, having had first hand experience of planning for the economy at the expense of the community, I asked in my time as a Sefton Councillor, that WIDER PLANNING ISSUES BE PART OF PLANNING PROCESS, to no avail. I was told these were unclear and need not form part of the planning permission/consent for the docks. As I seem to remember planning consent was deemed to have been given at the highest level of government, (the then Labour government if I recall correctly) as per Fracking and Sefton Council was just dealing with/granting local planning permission.

Former Lib Dem Cllr. Cliff Mainey who felt gagged when he raised issues on Sefton Council about access to and the environmental impacts associated with the Port of Liverpool.

Former Lib Dem Cllr. Cliff Mainey who felt gagged when he raised issues on Sefton Council about access to and the environmental impacts associated with the Port of Liverpool.

Of course I knew Cliff had asked awkward questions about the port expansion during his time on Sefton Council and indeed I have made reference to his concerns in previous postings on this subject. But I decided that I wanted to hear what Cliff thought now having had time to reflect on his efforts to drag such matters out of the political long grass when others seemed more than happy for them to stay there or even kick them further in to it.

Cliff is a environmentalist, a former Merseyside Fireman and he is well up on horticultural issues too. His efforts to question the impacts and consequences of the port expansion effectively cover two aspects, the environmental/social impacts and the transport impacts.

Cliff questioned the consequences of the dredging of the Mersey and its estuary as he wanted to know how such dredging, which has of course gone on in many forms for generations, will impact on our coast for future generations. More dredging was of course done and will continue to be done to facilitate the River Berth that will be accepting truly massive container ships later this year. The answers he got within Sefton Council were hardly helpful as they were usually along the lines of ‘that’s not a Council responsibility’ or ‘another agency controls that aspect of the project’ etc. The more he tried to get the planning issues looked at holistically, taking into account all the potential impacts, the more he ran into brick walls.

Work on the new River Berth taking place in August 2015

Work on the new River Berth taking place in August 2015

Now some of those brick walls were obviously political as Bootle Labour Party were probably more willing to vote with the Tories (and you know they did that quite often) rather than expose this issue to detailed public scrutiny. Some of the barriers were also created by bureaucracy as it is indeed the case that the Environmental Agency, Council and other bodies did and still do control differing aspects of such huge projects. But of course it begs the question about why these separate organisations seem to work in their own silos only dealing with each other when they have little or no choice. Highways England doing their own consultation on the proposed road down the Rimrose Valley with seemingly no involvement from Sefton Council or Network Rail in recent weeks illustrates this silo mentality only and sadly too well.

Other environmental issues that Cliff was and indeed still is concerned about fit with my own oft expressed concerns on this blog site. The proposed new road down Rimrose Valley Country Park, widening of the A5036 (Dunnings Bridge Road), air pollution from HGV’s accessing the port in ever larger numbers when there are pollution levels of concern right now etc. I could go on but you get my drift.

But Cliff also sees the social consequences of this project as his historical comments above demonstrate. Yes, port expansion may well create more jobs if the port is successful in bringing in more business but how are the social impacts going to be mitigated for those living near the port or along the A5036 corridor that serves it? In reality the environmental and social impacts are very much mingled into one knotty problem like a ball of wool with many strands bound together. When you pull one strand you have no idea how long it will be and what it will pull out with it. And of course Cliff has told us how promised port expansion mitigations of previous generations ended up dividing Litherland.

I think it fair to say that Cliff shares my transportation access concerns and like me he can’t understand why having allowed the port to build its new River Berth the freight access issues are only now being looked at in any detail. It’s as though the project has been done back to front, as in a reasonable world surely the access issues would have been resolved before construction work on the dock took place.

After my interviewing Cliff I can only conclude that he confirmed all my worst fears about this huge project and the conspiracy of silence that has blanked out or stopped the social, environmental and transportation issues being looked at holistically and in a timely manner. It really is the scandal of our age locally here in Sefton Borough.

My thanks to Cliff Mainey for his frank and illuminating comments on this murky issue.