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Would National Highways dare to ‘rebrand’ The Port of Liverpool Access Scheme?



In case you missed it, Highways England rebranded on Thursday 19th August.


The government’s road building company is now known as National Highways. Not to be confused with the Highways Agency, which was their name just 6 years ago.


So that’s 2 rebrands and 3 names in just 6 years.


They wouldn’t be trying to throw people of their scent, would they?


The cost of the most recent rebrand, which has been labelled as both “offensive” and “bizarre” is reportedly £7 million.


Nice work if you can get it. We wonder which PR agency got that gig?


How many post-it notes were scribbled on and stuck to walls; how many whiteboards filled and how many coffees slurped before they came up with this latest name?


Not to mention the fact that somebody, somewhere appeared to miss the minor detail that this ‘national’ quango doesn’t cover Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland… just England.


In any event, the deed is done and the money – our money – has been spent.


At least they appear to have had the decency to keep their logo for the time being and ‘save’ us a few more million.


As visual metaphors go, we reckon a long and winding road to nowhere is actually a perfect fit.

Anyway, back to the point of this article…


It seems that they and their good friends at Peel Ports – owners and operators of the Port of Liverpool – the single biggest beneficiary of the A5036 Port of Liverpool Access Scheme – have got a bit of a taste for a rebrand.


In Peel Ports’ recent open letter to us, CEO Mark Whitworth casually and inexplicably referred to the project as The Sefton Relief Road.


We bet he had a little chuckle to himself as he wrote that one down.


Although surely he wasn’t responsible for a letter so dismissive of local communities’ health, wellbeing and environment? Was he?


Happily, if the reaction to this online was anything to go by, people saw it for what it was – a feeble attempt to deflect attention from Peel Ports’ major role and stake in this scheme… and its desire to see it delivered.


Stupid, we ain’t!


Perhaps even more interestingly, however, is the wording used in reporting comments made by National Highways’ Karen Cliffe when responding to our demonstration last month.


As reported on BBC North West’s website:


Ms Cliffe said the aim of the A5036 Princess Way scheme was to "improve safety and traffic conditions, support economic growth and both protect and enhance the environment".


Ignoring the ‘protect and enhance the environment’ bit for one second…


What is “The A5036 Princess Way Scheme”?


Since when has it been called that?


(Never).


Where has The Port of Liverpool Access bit gone?


And why the sudden inclusion of Princess Way?


A section of road (and more importantly the communities that surround it) that Highways England… no the Highways Agency… erm no, we mean National Highways is quite happy to pummel with yet more HGV traffic, air, noise and light pollution due to the unfathomable design of its preferred route.

This is something we must all keep a close eye on.


Clearly, National Highways must rue the day they named the project The Port of Liverpool Access Scheme making the link between their road, Peel Ports and the port itself an obvious and unavoidable one.


Peel Ports themselves must HATE the fact that their port – The Port of Liverpool – is mentioned in the name of the very scheme designed to improve access to and from it.


What were they thinking?!


From day one, both National Highways and Peel Ports have attempted to distance themselves from their own project’s name.


They consistently try to ‘spin’ the scheme as being about the economic growth and regeneration of the region.


But in truth, this relates only to growth of the Port of Liverpool, Peel Ports, their partners and their customers.


We just get to choke in the aftermath.


Also, you don’t ‘regenerate’ an area by bulldozing its finest green asset.


You degenerate it.


And yet…


Does this choice of wording give us a little clue as to what we can expect in the statutory consultation next spring, when National Highways is set to reveal the final design of its preferred route?


Could it be that they have suddenly realised how damaging the first design would be to those living alongside Princess Way?


Could it be that they have suddenly become aware of the links between roads, cars, HGVs, emissions and people’s health?


Could it be that they have realised that they were trying to fit a road where one doesn’t go and would simply create a brand-new bottleneck, whilst simultaneously claiming they’re solving congestion?


Could it even be that they have miraculously found a way of bypassing Princess Way altogether and coming out at the port’s entrance?


Hmmm. We wonder…


This isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.


At their public information events in 2019, even though it was difficult for anyone to know exactly who they were speaking to and what organisation they were from (they all wore Highways England T-shirts, which are presumably now in the bin…) we spoke to one engineer who didn’t rule this out.


Either way, when the statutory consultation comes around next spring and the ‘final’ route is revealed, National Highways will no doubt try to give it the big sell…


“We’ve listened!”*

“Gasp at the amount of trees we’ll plant”**

“Just look at our sympathetically designed ‘green’ bridges”***

“Gaze in awe at our bright and colourful underpasses”****


*even though we ignored you last time

**saplings, to replace the mature trees they would rip up to construct their road

***which kids would have to walk over on their way to school, inhaling HGV fumes

****which absolutely would NOT smell of urine, nor attract antisocial behaviour


Which leads us to what’s next.


In spring of next year, we will be invited to attend these consultation events.

We will be shown an artist’s impressions of their ‘vision’.


An open road, with barely any traffic on it at all.


Maybe a cycle lane or two, running alongside an empty, tranquil dual carriageway.

If we’re really lucky, we might even be spied upon, like last time.


We cannot afford to be fooled, or even to think “it doesn’t look that bad…” when the reality would be so much different and would signal a bleak future for residents of South Sefton for generations to come.


We’ll be using our next article to remind everyone what’s to come, how we need to stick together and how to respond to these plans next year.


They can call it what they like, but no amount of rebranding or greenwashing will alter the fact that this road is for the port, not the people.


This is the reason the road proposal is so wrong and the reason we must continue to fight it.

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