In its latest statement on the A5036 Port of Liverpool Access Scheme, Highways England trotted out more of the same, bland, detached language when asked to comment on its plans to bulldoze our country park.
With each new statement, it becomes clearer and clearer that the Government-owned company simply does not understand – or does not care about – the human aspect of putting a road through the last remaining space of its kind in our area.
Four lanes of HGVs alongside our children’s centres, nurseries, schools, houses and businesses?
Delivering a solution which will poison the air of the residents surrounding the park, resulting in breathing-related illnesses for the population?
The destruction of countryside and all of the wildlife it provides a home to?
How road-building on this scale contributes to the UK’s carbon emissions and the impact on the climate emergency?
Instead, what do we get?
We’re left asking; did a robot write this?
It is worth spending a moment breaking this statement down and – as always – questioning everything that is being said and stated as fact:
"Our legacy approach to delivery…"
Or, to put it another way, ‘the way we’ve always done things’.
If we’re talking about Highways England’s track record in our area, are they claiming that the Brooms Cross Road, for example, has been a resounding success?
Or, is it the perfect example of what Campaign for Better Transport has always told us: if you build another road, it will quickly be filled with more and more traffic.
It has led to new congestion issues along Moor Lane, which is now a car park at rush hour. The previous routes it was meant to ease pressure on have become rat runs.
It is a ‘sticking plaster’ approach to dealing with congestion. And an expensive and dirty one at that.
Highways England simply does not understand the geography of the area and fails to see the problems it has created elsewhere.
"the park's facilities and the existing A5036 will be improved”
Park’s facilities? It's countryside, not a playground.
People love it and use it for what it is: un-manicured, wild green space with wetlands, grassland, trees, pathways, as well as open fields. We don't want a park with artificial, landscaped lumps, bumps and ponds.
It’s not Tellytubbyland.
Highways England will create physical and visible barriers between our communities.
Besides, who on earth will want to exercise or use ‘facilities’ next to 4 lanes of HGVs, the dirty air and the noise?
Improving the existing A5036? Because the people at Highways England care so much about this route, why were they were willing to put forward a solution in the public consultation that would make conditions along this route a hundred times worse?
Miraculously, they subsequently realised what everyone else already knew and are now claiming that they are pursuing the preferred route through Rimrose Valley to improve conditions for these very communities.
Or, could it be that – having offered two solutions aimed at causing conflict and division – its real objective has been achieved and Highways England is now distancing itself from its own, original suggestion?
As for improving the route itself… says who?
Responsibility for the A5036 would be handed back to Sefton Council and it is they who would be responsible for the route and its ongoing maintenance, not Highways England.
This is why spending public money on an artist's impression of what the A5036 could look like in the future was disingenuous, divisive and a misuse of taxpayers' money.
“the new road will help relieve congestion across the whole of the local road network"
Until it too is filled and reaches capacity, which is inevitable if the port expands to the degree it wants to.
We repeat: More roads = more traffic = more congestion.
This is a cycle we need to break.
That won’t be done by pursuing the same, tired solutions to the same old problems. An absolute necessity is a non-road solution to freight. This could include rail, better use of existing waterways, or even new technology. So much is possible – it simply has not been explored.
The way to truly address the congestion on our road network isn’t by building more of them; it is by tackling domestic vehicle use, positively encouraging a change in all of our behaviour and having a genuine vision of how to achieve this. It won’t happen overnight.
This would come down to the transport policies of the LCR and Sefton Council. It could include car-sharing schemes; more frequent buses and more routes which are cheaper and greener; better park & ride facilities to make Merseyrail more attractive to commuters; more carriages at rush hour; cycle-to-work schemes; partnership with businesses to offer subsidies on new bike purchases; better cycle routes. So much is possible.
If the Council’s transport budget has been slashed by central Government, the LCR should be banging on the new Transport Secretary’s door, demanding more money.
Is Steve Rotheram doing this?
"providing more reliable journeys"
This is a myth.
It completely ignores the fact that HGVs are responsible for the most serious accidents on our roads. So, when (rather than if) there is an accident or a breakdown leading to closure of the road, what happens?
Chaos on the adjoining roads and streets.
The proposed route would also create a brand new bottleneck at the roundabout next to Princess Way. What about this ‘forgotten community’?
Princess Way would be worse off, no matter which solution Highways England went with.
How can Highways England now claim to be so concerned about living conditions alongside the existing route, yet conveniently ignore those living and working alongside Princess Way, whose misery will be compounded?
"freeing up more opportunities for jobs and homes"
How, exactly does a dual carriageway through a country park create new jobs, apart from the temporary construction roles needed to build it?
These aren’t jobs for Sefton people.
Or, does it mean jobs in the Port, with all of its automation?
What figures are Highways England using to back up this claim?
What promises have Peel Ports been making about the number of jobs the port’s expansion will generate?
Even more relevant, how many jobs make cases of childhood asthma and bronchitis palatable? COPD? Dementia? All have been linked to air pollution.
Does this imply that what is left of Rimrose Valley is to become fair game for housing developments? Will the new road have side roads, linking it to existing roads and streets in our area? Are these set to suffer the same fate as Moor Lane?
If so, we need to be aware of this now.
What does Highways England know that we don't?
We can expect more and more of this kind of language as the project progresses and Highways England ramps up its sales pitch. We’ll continue to call this out, but we need you to do the same.
Email them, write to them, but - above all - turn out in force to any consultation events or public information sessions.
Question everything you are being told by a Government-owned company, whose ‘boss’ decided, yet again, that Liverpool wasn’t worthy of the same levels of public expenditure as seen elsewhere in the country.
If we all continue to do this, we won’t let them get away with the cheap, dirty, shoddy solution we are having forced upon us. Every single one of us.
References used throughout this article are available on request.