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Notes from Peel Ports Meeting 19/03/18
Rimrose Valley Friends (RVF) – Si Smith, Tracey Boileau, Tracy Williams, Stuart Bennett
Peel Ports (PP) – Patrick Walters, Warren Marshall
1. RVF were of the view that theplanning process has been back to front – the necessary road and rail infrastructure should have been put in place before the port expansion was decided upon and approved. Peel Ports advised that they had to make a decision whether to implement the Liverpool2 container terminal extension given market share loss in container volumes particularly to South East ports.
2. In light of the Judicial Review and potential impasse, RVF suggested exploring the possibility of working together to come up with alternative solutions to address the current problems for Peel Ports(i.e. need for a less congested route out of the Port to the motorways) and the community (i.e. loss of green space, increase in pollution and impact on health).
3. Peel Portsadvised that they won't support anything that will put them at a commercial disadvantage. For example, if HGV-specific tolls were introduced as a means to fund a tunnel, Peel Ports would object to that unless road tolls are also introduced at the other major UK ports (Felixstowe, Southampton). In addition, Peel Portsconfirmed Highways England’s statement that they are not prepared to invest in a road solution as they feel this is beyond their remit. Peel Portsstated they have already invested hundreds of millions in the Port which is to the benefit of the entire region.
4. RVF said that, given the absence of political will to come up with enlightened options to solve the above problems, there's an opportunity here for Peel Portsto stand with the community and become trailblazers in researching and pushing for better alternatives, rather than leaving it to Highways England who only want to pursue a surface road and have dismissed tunnel option out of hand as too expensive.
5. In terms of alternatives (to road) Peel Ports explained that the road intervention was part of a much wider multi-modal freight solution. For example, container volumes moved along the Manchester Ship Canal have increased 10-fold (to 30,000) from the original service introduced in 2007. The biomass to Drax Power Station is entirely transported by rail. Peel Ports are committed to multi-modal solutions but there will always be a strong reliance upon road connectivity and capacity. Indeed evidence undertaken by the Dept. for Transport highlights that for all major UK ports freight movements by road account for circa. 75% with the balance comprising rail, coastal shipping and inland waterway.
6. RVF asked if Peel Portswould fund an independent consultancy to research all options and to come up with recommendations on how the required end result can be met without such negative impact on the community and so we can take viable recommendations to the political decision-makers. We talked about examples - for instance, electrification of the route to motorway, schemes to stop people using their cars so much (with 90% of all traffic being cars rather than HGVs), improvements to public transport much better to reduce traffic. RVF suggested looking at what's being achieved elsewhere in Europe and the wider world to see there are ways to fix this that won't further poison us or erode our essential green space. Stressed the need to change the political will, to widen the vision and perhaps Peel Portscan make an investment that will jump start this process?
7. In response, Peel Portssaid that they want to wait for the outcome of the Judicial Review. All decisions are in abeyance whilst awaiting the outcome. If the outcome is that H.E. will have to go back to the drawing board and if it looks like the scheme may be abandoned then they will be looking to get involved in exploring other options, but if the road that H.E. is currently planning ends up going ahead then they will be happy to support us in pushing for the best mitigation but they won't help us push for better options. This is because Peel Portsis a commercial organisation which requires the road transit to meet their needs. It's not for PeelPortsto fix the road problems where a solution is in progress. Peel Ports stated that this issue is not just about supporting the growth of the Port of Liverpool but is a much wider issue around access into South Sefton/North Liverpool and other regeneration plans being promoted by both Sefton and Liverpool Councils.
8. Peel Ports suggested that, with particular reference to a tunnel, it may be possible for Sefton Council to acquire low cost funding to augment the amount of money H.E. is prepared to invest so that the plans can be upgraded to a tunnel. Certain charitable, environmental funds and foundations may be able to lend cheap money to further that aim. It may be possible to pool resources from grants, SMBC, HE, LCR. That approach would need the buy-in of the local politicians to explore and determine whether this may be a viable way of upgrading the option to a tunnel. It may cost less than H.E.’s estimate? Also mentioned Dublin Port Tunnel as another option / example – i.e. Cars pay to use it, HGVs are free. This project was funded by the Government and Dublin Port is state controlled.
9. Other potential leads/avenues to explore suggested by Peel Portswere Road Haulage Association, Freight Transport Association, Merseytravel / LCR. Pointed to the fact that haulage companies could introduce ‘cleaner’ vehicles, plans for move to electric vehicles etc. However, caution was expressed in that cleaner vehicles would be beneficial to local air quality and emissions targets but there is an overriding issue of congestion upon the highway network.
Peel Portsstated they need a more immediate solution than the local, regional and national plans projecting to 2040. RVF also expressed frustration at various 25 and 30 year plans, which do not address the issues of today. Raised the fact that a tunnel would take longer to complete than a surface road and that they felt this was another factor for H.E.’s decision to build through RVF. Peel Portsdidn’t comment on whether the additional time for a tunnel was acceptable, although did concede that this issue has been going on for a very long time so there may be the potential to accept further delay if it gave a better, long-term, more acceptable solution.
11. RVF raised question of Peel Port’s political influence. Peel Portsadvised they are already in dialogue with Peter Dowd MP and Bill Esterson MP, but that they agree to disagree on the issue of the road, as both support calls for a tunnel and/or greater use of rail freight. There is currently no dialogue on this matter with Steve Rotheram the Metro Mayor. For the avoidance of doubt Peel Ports are also promoting rail freight but there are practical issues around the extent to which cargoes destined within the NW hinterland could be transported other than by road. Irish Sea trailer freight and animal feed distribution for the agricultural sector were mentioned as examples where rail freight would not work.
12. RVF talked about how unpopular Peel Portsis within sections of the local community and that for many, the road is the last straw. Peel Ports were of the view that the road is needed anyway, not just for the port but for the overall traffic increase linked to other regeneration aspirations.Again, they said that 90% of all traffic is from cars, which shows a wider problem. They feel the name "Port of Liverpool Access Scheme" is misleading and implies it's solely for Peel Ports, when it's not. For their part Highways England had been able to secure the Government funding for a road intervention on the back of supporting the future growth of the Port of Liverpool as an “international gateway”.
13. Peel Ports are aware of the negativity but the road is NOT their project. Also there are sections of the local community which benefit from the Port. Peel Ports is a significant local employer and some 70% of the ports headcount is drawn from Sefton, Liverpool and Wirral Councils. Peel Ports has been running a local apprenticeship programme for over 5 years now and have an ongoing collaboration with Hugh Baird College.
14. RVF questioned that if just 10% of traffic on the A5036 is port-related / HGV, why is it necessary to build a new road through Rimrose Valley, if alternative transport solutions could address the other 90% of traffic and increase capacity? RVF stated that this is where the suspicion lies within the communities around Rimrose Valley that the road is being built to cater for Peel Port’s needs, not the public’s. Peel Ports re-stated that more needs to be done on ‘demand management’ and to change mindset of people using cars and promote shift to public transport in order to reduce the 90% figure. If that happened, capacity on the existing road would increase for HGV’s. However RVF need to be aware that there is an equally active residents group (Church Road Residents Association who are saying “enough is enough” in terms of traffic congestion, air quality and emissions, noise, health impacts etc.
15. Conclusion. RVF’s objective for meeting was to determine whether Peel Portswere open to the idea of working with the community to oppose the plans in their current form and to explore better solutions. PeelPortsprovided some useful insights/angles to explore, but they are very much a commercial entity and therefore their responsibilities are towards the business and its shareholders.Peel Ports want to have a continued dialogue with the local community and equally see an increasing opportunity for a thriving and successful port providing job opportunities for local people.