Despite vows of invigoration and interoperability, fears remain that thousands of city residents will be excluded from new transport initiatives.
£710m of funding could be the answer to the east of Liverpool’s connectivity, as it has long been cut off from a rail network.
It comes after Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram vowed at the Labour party conference in September to create a transport system that was ‘better than they’ve got in London.’
An announcement was made earlier this week that the funding had been secured from the government and it seems the mayor’s vow to invest in new infrastructure for transports were not hollow promises.
The will help launch the ‘transport revolution’ which will include new train stations, green bus routes and improved walking and cycling facilities.
The lofty vision of besting London’s transport system may still be in the infancy stages but the massive cash injection is setting the precedent for achieving the goals, acting as the first track being laid down.
The Merseyrail network will be extended to meet the needs of the previously hard to reach communities, such as Skelmersdale, and it is people of places with limited network services who will have been keeping an eye on the details.
Merseyrail is one of the best performing rail franchises in the country.
Down to the geography of the city, amongst other reasons, it has the luxury of full access to the rail network it operates on which results in fewer delays, since unlike competing franchises it doesn’t need to vie for precious platform space.
However, much of the east of the city is basically untouched – beyond the northern line it skips places like Ormskirk, Southport and Kirkby to as far as Hunts Cross.
The areas of West Derby, Knotty Ash, Croxteth, Norris Green, Tuebrook and Stoneycroft remain without a direct line to the city’s rail network which means a population of up to 70,000 are unable to enjoy interoperability of travel and instead have to rely on car use and bus travel.
The scale of the challenge of creating an infrastructure to rival London’s must be taken seriously into consideration and the focus must be clear, in order to create the level of connectivity throughout the entire city that London enjoys.
West Derby MP Ian Byrne feels as though network for his constituency has devolved.
For me, Steve Rotherham and his team have done a magnificent job securing the funding. It’s a fantastic advancement. I fully support the plans for an integrated London style transport system. But it’s not London yet. London has fantastic connectivity. At the moment we’re far far from that. For me, it’s a case of looking at the gaps. 60 years ago we had far better connectivity. We’ve actually gone back. Hopefully now there is an opportunity with the Metro Mayor to revisit all areas of Liverpool which it desperately needs. West Derby has huge gaps. Train connectivity is something that is unbelievably lacking. It would make a huge difference to the infrastructure in east Liverpool if we had connectivity. – Ian Byrne – West Derby MP
City Council cabinet member and Cllr for the ward Harry Doyle, a vocal supporter of improving the city region’s interconnectivity has pointed out that while road connections are good, there has been a lack of consideration in travel time that needs addressing directly and improved upon.
Knotty Ash is slightly further south than West Derby and it faces a whole slew of connection issues.
Firstly, it doesn’t have a train station.
It takes around the same time to get the bus from the Greyhound pub in Knotty Ash into town as it would to get the train from Chester into town. And that’s just not acceptable. For added context, Knotty Ash is six miles from Liverpool city centre. A bus journey could be between 45 minutes and an hour depending on traffic. Formby is 12 miles from Liverpool city centre. A train journey takes 30 minutes. It would take me less than half the time with a car. We have a good bus network across the city, but the travel time is not acceptable. Not when we’re trying to encourage more people to use public transport. – Harry Doyle – City Council Cabinet Member
‘Green corridors’ will be a core focus for the funding secured for transport reinvigoration.
It includes zero-emission hydrogen-powered double-decker buses and ‘green bus routes’ which are designed with prioritisations of travel and journey time through a combination of priority lanes, traffic signal upgrades, remodelled junctions and upgraded, accessible passenger facilities.
The most frequented and busiest bus in the region, the 10A, will be the first of the planned green routes to serve the area – it runs from St Helens to Liverpool city centre through areas like Knotty Ash and Stoneycroft.
So who are the residents in danger of being left out?
In the Northeast of the city, the people of Croxteth who are old enough will only remember, before it closed, of West Derby as the area’s nearest working train station.
The centre of Croxteth is 2 miles away from Fazakerly, which makes that area its nearest connection to the Merseyrail line.
Because of this, areas like Croxteth and Norris Green are more reliant than most on the bus services – 80% of journeys in the City Region are in fact taken by bus.