Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

The Mersey Beat

Posted in Commuter, Great Britain, Infrastructure, Metro by Chairman Pip on 20 May 2011

Having spent the last week in Liverpool, I’ve had an opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of Merseyside, not the least of which has been the opportunity to travel around on Merseyrail’s services, akin more I’d say to London Overground than anything else. Merseyrail has a pair of routes (although the route map says there are three, the “City Line” shouldn’t really be included as it is not electrified nor run by Merseyrail itself), that utilise the same 750v dc third rail electrification as the Southern Region, making it almost totally self-contained within its own geographical area. However, pretty much like London Overground, Merseyrail doesn’t really serve the centre of the city – there are only four major stations on its network within the centre of Liverpool:

As a consequence, although the city itself is by no means the biggest in Britain, it still means a good deal of walking around the city centre and the dockside to get to the various touristy areas (of which there are many). This then set me thinking about the failed Merseytram concept. This was intended as a new light rail network for Merseyside back in the days when everyone wanted to build light rail, which was the new big thing in sustainable, green transport for city centres. The intention of this was to create a large scale network, consisting of three individual lines joined by a loop around the city centre that would connect major transport hubs (Lime Street for intercity rail services, Moorfields for Merseyrail services, Paradise Street Interchange for bus services, and Pier Head for the Mersey Ferry). As with many such schemes, the costs of the project rose to the extent that the British Government would not guarantee funding for it and so it collapsed (although it apparently remains official policy for Merseytravel). However, something that got me thinking was an idea that I first came across in Toronto. Back in 1990, TTC built a new streetcar line along the harbourfront, on the shore of Lake Ontario, which connected Union Station to the existing route along Spadina Avenue. In 1997, this route was extended along the lake shore to terminate at Exhibition Place, giving this area a connection to the city’s mass transit networks. In Liverpool, the area along the riverfront is also a major tourist area that has undergone massive regeneration over the past few years, with Albert Dock at its forefront. The ACC Liverpool building and “Wheel of Liverpool”, as well as the Mersey Ferry terminal, the new Cruise Terminal and the Pier Head are all along this stretch of route. So why not ape Toronto and build the light rail network connecting all of these areas? Indeed, and I speak only from looking at a map in front of me, but there seem to be a reasonable number of fair wide roads and thoroughfares around the centre of the city that could be used to go further than simply the shoreline, and go some way to constructing the loop around the city centre. By putting these within at least walking distance (or even as direct interchanges) of the four city centre Merseyrail stations, it immediately expands the reach of the Merseyrail network, as well as improving the travelling times between the large number of tourist attractions in the city itself.

Merseyrail Class 508 - Merseyrail could perhaps better connect with the centre of Liverpool through the construction of the city centre loop line from the Merseytram proposal

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