Access to the Port of Liverpool – Shuffling about in Bootle Labour’s undergrowth?

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

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

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/calls-tunnel-link-liverpool2-terminal-11651359

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

Readers of this blog site will know how disappointed (and that’s being polite about it!) I have been by the lack of action by Labour-run Sefton Council with regard to this hugely important transport project. But are we starting to see stirrings from Bootle Labour who may be trying to position themselves?

My most recent posting on this matter is available via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/07/22/access-to-the-port-of-liverpool-an-update/

The Echo article above is interesting and it may or may not be of significance. By that I mean if Bootle Labour are seemingly latching onto a solution that will not be a runner due to the massive cost then they are just positioning themselves to be able to say we did propose an alternative and were ignored. A political get out of jail type card.

But of course they may be backing the tunnel because they think it is likely to happen and need to be on the winning side of the argument. However, they see themselves winning either way because if the proposed surface road does get built (down the Rimrose Valley Country Park) then they have distanced themselves from its unpopularity.

Am I being too cynical? I very much doubt it!

PS. You may notice that the Echo article makes no mention what so ever about the potential rail solutions for accessing the Port of Liverpool/Liverpool 2. Have rail options been dropped now? Were they ever seriously investigated?

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.

Peel Ports new container terminal at Seaforth – Champion article ignores the transportation scandal

Buried away on page 18 of last week’s Champion newspaper was an article all about a visit by a little known government Shipping Minister (Robert Goodwill) to Seaforth Docks and the Port of Liverpool.

Red and blue cranes at Seaforth Docks

The article was in connection with his visit and how the expansion of the docks is we are told attracting new businesses to the area. All well and good except for the fact that this project has seemingly been put together without much in the way of credible transport planning, by responsible public authorities, to get the extra projected traffic that the expanded docks may generate to and from Seaforth.

I am not really pointing a finger a Peel here because if the transport infrastructure challenge is not successfully resolved they will be one of the victims of what to me has been an appalling planning processes.

I have commented on this many times before and yet the transport issues are only now being addressed (Highways England have just started public consultations) whilst the Champion tells us the port’s enhanced facilities are opening later this year. Just think how long it will take to put the controversial transport infrastructure solutions in place!

So yes dear Minister tell us what a great thing the expanded port may well be but what’s the point of saying all this when the planning for the the movement of freight to the from the port has in no way been progressed at anything like the pace it should have been to match the building work at the container terminal. I fear the press has just been used to shower us with the good news in the hope we will not worry too much about those transportation issues.

And they are utterly immense! A new road down the Rimrose Valley and Country Park, widening of the A5036, but probably very little extra freight by train as transport planners can’t really be bothered about that method.

The fact is that Seaforth Docks are hemmed in by residential housing to the east and north so whatever road transportation solutions are eventually proposed they are bound to have negative effects on residents living in Netherton, Seaforth, Litherland etc.

The fact that this has all been left to the very end of the project and effectively to chance is of no credit what so ever to Sefton Council, Highways England and Network Rail.

This may be a good news story but it has got a huge amount of grief attached to it that the powers that be have all but ignored. If this is an example of integrated planning for a project of regional significance I’m a Dutchman as they say.

Cliff Mainey

Cliff Mainey

I recently chatted about this with my old friend and former Sefton Councillor/Borough Mayor Cliff Mainey and another posting will follow. Cliff tried to burrow into the impacts of the port expansion and to put it bluntly he was blocked at every turn. Read on when I publish Cliff’s take on all this……

Seaforth Docks – Port Access – Highways England Consultation

I trotted along to Maghull Library yesterday to hear what Highways England had to say via their consultation process about either/or significantly increasing the capacity of Dunningsbridge Road (A5036) and/or building a new road to the docks down through Rimrose Valley Country Park.

The busy A5036 thunders over the Leeds Liverpool Canal in Litherland but the oasis of Rimrose Valley Country Park sits the other side of this manic highway to Seaforth Docks.

The busy A5036 thunders over the Leeds Liverpool Canal in Litherland but the oasis of Rimrose Valley Country Park sits the other side of this manic highway to Seaforth Docks.

I suppose that the obvious thing that hit me was that the consultation was just Highways England. Where was Network Rail? Why not a consultation on all the options to get freight to and from the docks encompassing road, rail and the ship canal? An impression of lack of joined up thinking was being demonstrated to me by Highways England going it alone.

I suspect that Sefton Council’s ‘don’t touch this issue with a barge pole’ type approach has something to do with the lack of a joined up thinking. Surely if Sefton was doing anything but sitting back and watching what is going on it would be insisting on the various potential deliverers of transport solutions doing their stuff in partnership.

Red and blue cranes at Seaforth Docks

Now don’t get me wrong Bootle Labour Party have been running from this issue as long as I can remember – 10 years or more I would guess. Trouble is Bootle Labour Party also run Sefton Council so their influence on this very controversial issue is everything. But as we have seen for a long time now sitting on the fence is about the best the Council has managed as it hopes the public will give Highways England a good baseball batting instead of them.

But all of this kicking the issue back into the long grass each time it rears its head is not leading a community it is hiding behind the community and leaving it to fight its own battles.

Interestingly, it seems that local Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson may be leaning towards those who oppose a new road being built down Rimrose Valley Country Park? Well at least that is my reading of his seemingly supporting an artist who is donating 10% of the sales from her work to the Rimrose Valley Friends Group who oppose the road planned through their County Park (Champion Newspaper 2nd March).

Where that puts Bootle Labour Party I don’t know but then again Sefton Central Labour and Bootle Labour not getting on is old news.

So that’s the politics of the issue but what about the proposals of Highways England? From listening to their representatives at the event in Maghull Library they appreciate only too well how controversial their proposed plans are and how Sefton Council is firmly sat on the fence. I got the impression they are doing their thing on their own because no one else is doing any wider more holistic consultation.

Their plans for the Dunningsbridge Road (A5036) could include flyovers or tunnels at the major junctions to enable traffic to flow far better than the present start stop caused by 7 sets of traffic lights. It could also include extra traffic lanes where it is possible to fit them in. They also see the lot of the pedestrian and cyclist as being a big issue and of the road in effect becoming even more of an un-crossable barrier (north/south) than it is now. It’s certainly not pedestrian or cyclist friendly now, so they are not wrong on that aspect.

One of the display posters in Maghull Library showing (dotted line) the potential route of the new road proposed by Highways England.

One of the display posters in Maghull Library showing (dotted line) the potential route of the new road proposed by Highways England.

With the proposed new road, I get the impression that Highways England think it has to be built as they were very clear that their thoughts are that the A5036 will not deliver enough freight capacity even if it is upgraded as far as is possible. To environmental campaigners like me this is a terrible prospect.

But what about the environmental issues. We all know that diesel particulate pollution of our air is a big issue and that with increased HGV traffic the only outcome can surely be more air pollution challenges. And how about noise and vibrations from rumbling HGV’s; that’s going to get worse too. There are not going to be any environmental positives here, only mitigations that will top-slice the worst of them. And that’s where rail and water come in, if the Port Access Steering Group is really going to lead a green solution.

If rail is going to be a serious solution, which I think it has to be, it will have to be electrified so that polluting diesel locomotives are not used. It means that the Bootle Branch will have to be brought back into use and new connections made at either end of it so that the national railway network can be accessed.

And then there’s the issue of taking barges up and down the Manchester Ship Canal to distribution facilities along it. Is this going to be much more than a token gesture? I hope not.

I fear that all the eggs are presently in the Highways England basket and with Sefton Council shuffling very uncomfortably on their fence it is going to take the good folks of Seaforth, Litherland, Netherton and Bootle to get their local leaders off that fence and fighting for them.

But even that is not the whole picture because of course Peel Ports want to build massive logistic facilities in Melling alongside the M57 and even further up the M58 in Skelmersdale. Wherever those facilities end up being built will mean huge HGV traffic flows in and around those communities too. So this involves folk in Melling, Aintree Village and beyond as well and even more high grade agricultural land being concreted over than is already proposed in Sefton Council’s awful Local Plan.

Seen in a field in Melling where locals are fighting the Peel Ports/Holdings proposals for a huge logistics park on what is presently farm land.

Seen in a field in Melling where locals are fighting the Peel Ports/Holdings proposals for a huge logistics park on what is presently farm land.

Is this going to be a huge economic boost for Sefton and a massive environmental disaster at the same time? But what if the port is unsuccessful in gaining the extra business that it is hoping for? In those circumstances it could be just one huge environmental disaster.

Very big issues here. Yes, as an environmental campaigner I am hugely sceptical of Highways England’s plans and proposals but this issue needs some leadership from Sefton Council. Are they listening?

Seaforth Docks – New (red) cranes arrive

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/business/watch-drone-footage-peel-ports-10421091

The Liverpool Echo has an interesting video on its web site – see link above.

I noticed the new cranes yesterday and the fact that new ones are red as opposed to the old ones being blue. Any footballing significance in this?

Seaforth Docks and hinterland in 2014 - The old cranes were blue.

Seaforth Docks and hinterland in 2014 – The old cranes were blue.

And now:-

Red and blue cranes

Lancashire Life Magazine – Expansion at Seaforth Dock

Thumbing through a July 2015 copy of this magazine in a local coffee shop I came across a really positive spin article about the new river berth dock at Seaforth and the extra freight traffic that will go through it from later this year.

The present Seaforth Docks and hinterland

The present Seaforth Docks and hinterland

This is a subject I have comment on before but this article really brought home to me how out of sync Sefton Council, the Highways Agency and Network Rail are with the project.

The obvious question is why have these public sector agencies and the Council not brought forward, for public inspection and consultation, any firm proposals to deal with freight access to the port bearing in mind that increased levels of heavy good lorries are going to be thundering through Netherton & Bootle very soon indeed?

It’s not as if they don’t know about the port expansion or the negative consequences that it could well have on the environment and the Netherton/Bootle/Seaforth communities. Indeed, they have known about it for a long, long time.

To quote from the Lancashire Life article it says ‘In December this year Peel Ports massive new Liverpool complex comes into operation’ and ‘It’s been a long time in the planning’.

Well one thing is for sure the Council, Highways Agency and Network Rail seem to have been a long time in the snoozing as goodness knows how long it will be before they have a solution to the increased lorries and associated air pollution that they bring to the south Sefton communities.