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Questions remain around Port Access Steering Group

Photo Credit: Supply Chain Experts

Last month, we wrote to Katherine Fairclough, Chief Executive of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, regarding the concerns we hold over the work of the Port Access Steering Group (PASG).

This group is made up of representatives of Peel Ports, National Highways, Network Rail, the Department for Transport and various officers from the local and combined authorities in the City Region, among others.

The work of PASG should, in theory at least, have a huge bearing on what will or won't happen regarding the road proposal. This is because it is tasked to look at ALL modes of accessing the Port of Liverpool.

If we are looking for credible alternatives to the road proposal AND ways to alleviate traffic on the existing port access routes, these are the people who should hold the answers.

We received a reply sent on the Chief Exec's behalf from Richard McGuckin, Executive Director of "Place", also from the Combined Authority.

This is a detailed and considered response and we're grateful to Richard for taking the time to respond to us.

For us, the key points to take away from this letter are as follows:

  • It raises questions around the update we were provided in 2021 - that a full feasibility study on port access was in progress and due at the end of that year. This was incorrect and we have queried this with Sefton Council.

  • It shines some light on the workings of PASG, and what we believe has been a complete lack of direction, or sense of urgency. We are told "There is currently no detailed work programme documented with dates against specific tasks for either PASG or the work of its subgroups." Given the importance of this group to all of us who live and work in South Sefton, or even the port itself, we find this staggering.

  • We are told that this is being addressed with new Terms of Reference for the group, but it begs the question: what has this group been doing at its quarterly meetings since it was first formed over a decade ago? Why have no actions, owners and deadlines been assigned throughout this period? Isn't this bread and butter stuff? Instead, we are told that "PASG is not a decision making-body... it provides a forum for issues to be discussed. Formal decisions or actions can only be taken or progressed through PASG's constituent members' formal decision-making structures".

So, if its members include National Highways (champions of its own road proposal with a vested interest in seeing it delivered) and Peel Ports (which would clearly be in favour of a publicly-funded road to improve access to its facility), where is the incentive for either of these organisations to challenge themselves and to seriously explore alternatives?

Despite the above, the letter does contain some positive noises around work which has taken place looking into the movement of freight to inform the City Region's new Local Transport Plan, an acknowledgement that there needs to be improved community engagement and transparency, and assurances that stakeholders work collaboratively in sharing relevant data.

This means it is essential that National Highways shares its latest traffic analysis data with this group as a matter of urgency. Again, where is the incentive to do this, if it could undermine the case for its own road proposal?

The road proposal was based on data from a pre-Covid, pre-Brexit, pre-Climate Emergency world, when a boom in container freight was predicted.

Just last month, Peel Ports announced redundancies because of a downturn in container freight, citing a "sustained and significant deterioration" of the number of containers coming in and out of the terminals.

If we hadn't fought against this road proposal for so hard and for so long, it would have been built on a speculative basis, using incorrect predictions... and it would have flown in the face of the unquantifiable value that green spaces like Rimrose and others have - both for a people during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021... and the planet.

As ever, we'll be following up on all of the above and will update you along the way.

You can read the letter in full below:

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