Hydrogen-powered buses could be brought in to meet growing demand for transport around Wirral Waters and the surrounding areas.
Members of Wirral Council’s Economy, Regeneration and Development committee considered the future of public transport and the demands upon it.
The committee agreed to move forward with asking the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) to include a Wirral ‘Mass Transit’ scheme in their Bus Service Improvement Plan submission to government in October 2021.
A report prepared for the committee said a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system could be an initial option for ‘mass transit’ to meet demand in the coming years, ahead of potentially developing a higher capacity general transport network over the longer term linking to the existing public transport provision.
‘Mass transit’ describes any transport system or mode which can move lots of people across an area and usually refers to a high-quality, high-capacity regular public transport which is easy to use. It can include buses, trams, trains, ferries and active travel such as cycling.
A BRT system is a transport scheme in between conventional bus and light rail. The committee report said a Wirral BRT could be similar to Belfast Glider BRT service and could also incorporate the latest hydrogen technology currently being bought by LCRCA for their fleet as a zero-emission solution.
Addressing transport is a priority for the borough as demand grows with the development of Wirral Waters and the regeneration of Birkenhead and surrounding areas.
The initial phase of the Wirral Mass Transit system has been devised to address the requirements of new developments likely to be in place by 2023 and shortly thereafter, expected to be concentrated in and around the Northbank and Tower Road areas of Wirral Waters, the Eureka! Science + Discovery museum at Seacombe and certain new residential and commercial development within Birkenhead town centre and Wallasey.
The proposals could also see e-cycle and (subject to legislative changes following current Department for Transport trials) a potential e-scooter scheme as well as improved links for walking and cycling.
The move would help the council press ahead with a high-quality public transport scheme to help meet the borough’s Climate Emergency commitment as part of the Cool2 Strategy to ‘a complete transition to fossil fuel free local travel by around 2030’.
Wirral Waters represents an extremely large regeneration area with recently designated Freeport Status and also represents a significant proportion of the total new development contained within Wirral’s emerging Local Plan which outlines how the borough will meet demand for housing in the coming years.
Cllr Tony Jones, chair of the Economy, Regeneration and Development Committee said. “This area has been poorly served by public transport in the past but now there is growing demand in this neighbourhood and this report outline how the authority aims to ensure people can use sustainable transport to complete their journeys.
“We are on the cusp of seeing a real step change in the Wirral Waters site as well as the surrounding areas as our ambitions for major regeneration forge ahead and ensuring public transport meets the needs of people from the outset will be a key element of seeing this become a success.”
Richard Mawdsley, Director of Development for Peel L&P’s Wirral Waters said, “Given our stated ambition for Wirral Waters to be one of the most sustainable regeneration projects in the UK, we welcome investment in an appropriate, scalable, low-cost and low carbon mass transit solution that addresses ‘last-mile’ connectivity.”
The transport proposals were discussed at the meeting of Wirral Council’s Economy, Regeneration and Development Committee on Wednesday 29 September. Members approved the recommendation to move to the next stage of the plan, and asked for further details on the proposals.