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arm of the Liverpool City Region, say they have long-term plans to reopen the branch for passenger traffic which was withdrawn from it and the former Ford and Linacre Road Stations in April 1951.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

Climate Change & the Port of Liverpool

Daughter Jen and I attended a public meeting in Waterloo yesterday evening at Crosby Lakeside Adventure Centre organised by Friends of the Earth. The subject of the meeting and debate was The Port of Liverpool & The Climate Crisis.

The meeting took the form of a panel of speakers making initial statements and then them taking questions which had been submitted prior to the meeting, although there was also some interaction with the audience of I would guess @150 people.

(The acoustics were not great in the room so I may have missed some points that were made)

The panel was Paulette Lappin (Sefton Councillor for Ford Ward & Cabinet Member – Regulatory, Compliance and Corporate Services), Stu from Save Rimrose Valley Campaign, Bill Esterson MP for Sefton Central, a representative of the Church Road & District Residents Assn, Craig from Friends of the Earth and the event was hosted/chaired by Dominic Browne, editor of Highways Magazine/ Transport Network.

Cllr. Lappin raised concerns about poor air quality associated with the area around the Port. She also said that Sefton Council was still pressing for a road tunnel to access it.

Rimrose Valley Country Park.

Stu from Save Rimrose Valley Campaign was disappointed that Peel Ports & Highways England were not at the event.

Bill Esterson MP said he was against both a new road down the Rimrose Valley or the alternative Highways England solution of upgrading the A5036/Church Road. He wanted a tunnel but but not a road tunnel, a rail tunnel.

The Church Road & District speaker (my apols I did not catch his name) said his group represented concerned residents from Millers Bridge to Switch Island. He also said his group would be taking Sefton Council to court for its failings. He wants digital air pollution monitoring at all the schools around the A5036 corridor.

Craig the FofTE speaker said a Health Assessment for the proposed new road down the Rimrose Valley needs to be made. He also called for Highways England to be scrapped in favour of sustainable transport solutions. He was clearly incredulous that the Port had been expanded and then the transport links to it were being considered.

Other comments – Why was Steve Rotherham the Metro Mayor not at the event? – The response from some was that he was simply a figurehead but with little power. FofTE called on Rotherham to come out clearly against the 2 road schemes for accessing the Port.

Why did Sefton Council not apply for government money (in 2018?) to enable it to conduct detailed air monitoring? – This was clearly a big issue between the Church Road & District Group and Sefton Council, indeed it led to the host saying he was glad the two of them were at different ends of the table.

What had Merseytravel been doing as the Transport Committee for the City Region? Had they been assisting Highways England?

Rebecca Hanson (from the audience) called for the only digital monitor in the Port vicinity to be put on-line so that anyone could access it for real time air pollution information. My understanding is that the Sefton Cabinet Member undertook to try to get this done.

Has a detailed assessment been undertaken for the 3rd alternative i.e. a rail tunnel? The MP thought not.

Reference made to early reports and investigations via Sefton Council and the Port Access Group it chaired, going back to 2003, but of course the Climate Crisis had not been the massive issue then that it is now.

A chap from the audience asked about the long talked of HGV parking-up facility for the Port and where this had got to – no one seemed to know the answer to this.

My thoughts on the event –

Why hadn’t Sefton Council sent a councillor along who was a member of the Port Access Steering Group which it had chaired from the outset? Cllr. Lappin said she had not been a member of it.

Why was the Sefton Central MP there when the vast majority of issues are actually within the Bootle Constituency?

What did the event achieve? Well it clearly led to information sharing amongst those who attended it but whether it will have contributed to changing of minds in government or elsewhere is a different matter. I got the impression that all of us at the event were opposed to what Highways England is proposing (either road scheme) so there’s a danger we were talking to ourselves and not really exerting that influence that is so clearly needed on the real decision makers.

If I have anything wrong here please let me know and I will correct. As I said the acoustics were not great.

Liverpool City Region comes under pressure to take back control of buses

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

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-city-region-urged-follow-17059083

This is a welcome move by Lib Dem members on Wirral Council as their initiative will, if supported, have a beneficial effect on bus services across the Liverpool City Region (LCR).

I recall hearing Merseytravel Chairperson, Cllr. Liam Robinson, talk about such a move at an OPSTA meeting in Southport in November 2018. However, my concern then, as it has been for many a year, was that regaining local control over buses was becoming a matter oft talked about rather than actually being energetically taken forward. My note from the Southport meeting said this – Cllr. Robinson presented his vision of how bus services could be improved in the Liverpool City Region (beyond the present Bus Alliance with Arriva and Stagecoach)

Good luck to Wirral Lib Dems in their attempt to push LCR/Merseytravel to deliver on this sooner rather than later. Righting the wrongs of the Thatcher’s appalling 1980’s Bus Deregulation Act, which plunged all local bus services (except for those in London) into a further spiral of decline has been a long time coming – like some local bus services!

Liverpool City Region is listening or so they tell us

We’ve all heard about the poor (and that’s being polite about it) devolution deal which came down from our Conservative Government and was enthusiastically embraced by Merseyside Labour. I was not for swallowing 3rd rate devolution though and said so at the time (see previous postings on this blog site) as a Mersey Metro Mayor was in effect forced upon the Liverpool City Region.

I think it also fair to say that we’ve not exactly been overtaken with initiatives by our Metro Mayor who sadly often seems to be in the slip-stream of Manchester’s Metro Mayor, Bandwagon Burnham.

But actually I am really keen on proper decentralistion, well I would be I’m a Liberal and exercising power at the lowest possible level in our democracy is what we Libs are all about. It’s also why we saw a rat and realised the decentralisation on offer to Liverpool City Region was 3rd rate.

Now, having got that off my chest, I hear that our City Region, without much power, is asking us what we want to see it do and they claim to be listening too. Have a look at the link below to the on-line consultation:-

www.liverpoolcityregion-ca.gov.uk/lcrlistens/

I’ve had my say about local transport improvements I would like to see, air pollution that urgently needs tackling and employment issues which need action. Why not have your say too?

I’m not particularly hopeful that the issues I’ve raised will be grasped but if we don’t keep our leaders on their toes then we can’t complain when they do little or do things we don’t think are wise use of our money. Go on give our Liverpool City Region leaders something to think about…………

Metro Mayor Tax – Another call on your pocket

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

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/steve-rotheram-going-charge-you-15694713

Now I don’t recall amongst all the hype from Tories in Government and Labour locally who backed us having a Metro Mayor, on what I called at the time a 3rd rate devolution deal, that there’d be an addition to all the Liverpool City Region council tax bills, do you? But then again it was probably always the case that there’d be more mouths to feed and such has come to pass.

I’d be much happier if the powers devolved to our Metro Mayor had made it worth us putting our hands deeper into our pockets but I’ve been consistent in saying it was a poor deal that should not have been embraced so lovingly by Labour leaders across Merseyside.

It’s not that I’m opposed to devolved powers, indeed as a Liberal, I’ve championed such moves for as long as I can recall when both Tories and Labour nationally and locally would have none of it. It’s just that I’m far from convinced that the limited powers that our Metro Mayor has makes the post worth having (and us paying for) and I’d hold that view no matter who was our Metro Mayor.

And where’s the detailed plan and the vision for say the next 20 years to take our City Region forward, you get the impression that at least initially our money will be going to put that together whereas it should have come before the plea for cash.

Tell us what you are going to deliver – then ask us to chip in not the other way round