Mayor Rotheram on why he wants to build three new railway stations

Last week, in the first policy pledge of his campaign for re-election to four more years as Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram announced his intention to build new stations at Woodchurch in Wirral, Carr Mill in St Helens, and Daresbury in Halton by 2030.

Should the plans go ahead, it would represent each area of the city region having a brand new station under Mr Rotheram’s tenure.

Outlining his plans in an extended interview with the LDRS, the Labour man explained why he had chosen those areas and more importantly, how they would be paid for.

He said, “The money has been secured and that’s the good thing because it’s not the difficult part this time. On most of the things we’ve done, it’s about ensuring we’ve got enough money to do them but we’ve got a pot of money now, it’s called CRSTS 2.

“That pot has grown from when I took over and the last settlement we’ve got was £1.6bn so we’ve been able to demonstrate to government that we can use this funding better than they can and they’re trusting it to us.”

Two new stations have opened on the Merseyrail network in the last six years, with Maghull North opening in 2018. Last year, the £80m Headbolt Lane site welcomed passengers for the first time in Kirkby.

Mr Rotheram explained how the new stations would be delivered, should he be returned this summer. He said, “One of them is a lot easier than Headbolt Lane. Headbolt Lane had a lot of challenges including building track from Kirkby and then all the car park stuff and things we have to do. 

“These will come in way under that but one will be significantly more challenging so we think the pot of money we’ve got, even with inflation built in, is easily enough to be able to achieve what we need to do.”

You would be forgiven for doing a double take at the announcements of the three locations as they are not new. Ahead of the Mayoral elections in 2021, Mr Rotheram expressed a desire to put new stations in each location.

So what’s changed?

The Mayor said, “They’re on a priority list and genuinely they were three that were right at the top so we’ve always thought, with the conurbation around Woodchurch and that estate there, there’s enough of the community who will use this station that will make it wash its face. That’s one I was determined to get over the line.

“Daresbury is going to be one of the fastest growing industrial and scientific hubs in the whole country. In the next four, five, 10 years, that area is going to be somewhere that will be somewhere commercial you can run that service.

“The more difficult one, to tell you the truth, is Carr Mill but we need to better connect St Helens with the city region and the city centre and this is just one step in a plan we’ve got for St Helens. It’s not the end of what we want to do there but the first leg of connecting it to our network and hopefully running our trains on it at some stage.

“It’s all to do with money and we’ve received the funding guarantee and we’ve gone further than what we said we’d like to do in 2020. Woodchurch was one we said we’d like to do, it was an aspiration, we’re saying it’s going to be done now.”

As part of the transport announcement, Mr Rotheram also revealed he would seek to complete the Liverpool Baltic station by 2027 – a year ahead of schedule. In January Tony Killen, combined authority rail development advisor, told the organisation’s overview and scrutiny committee how an opening date of March 2028 was likely to be the earliest point passengers can expect.

Mr Rotheram was bullish in the face of that assessment. He said, “Thankfully staff and officers don’t decide what happens in the Liverpool City Region, it’s the directly elected Mayor and that happens to be me at the moment and I’ll be the one who decides on that. 

“I’ll take advice, I always do about the difficulties and the challenges we face but I have to press ahead as quickly as possible, given all the considerations around safety, that we do this as soon as we possibly can and that means the passengers will see services as soon as it’s feasibly possible to do that, not what officers want it to be.”

Currently, only one party has confirmed it will stand against Mr Rotheram, with Jade Adamowicz Marsden representing the Conservatives. Reacting to the announcement on new stations on social media, she said, “In principle more stations are good but quite frankly there are so many questions that need answering surrounding the battery-operated trains before anything else happens.”

The former Labour MP said he would also seek to make amendments at Moorfields, which he described as “in dire need” and hoped to begin work on improvements at Liverpool Central. He said, “We’ve been working on this with the Department for Transport for probably five years and we’ve got them into a position where they accept it’s a major underground station. 

“It’s the most frequented, highest footfall of any underground station outside London and we need to do something because the numbers keep increasing, the platforms are restricted and in five, 10 years it’s no good saying ‘what do we do now?’ so we’re planning ahead for the future.”

One of the biggest issues of contention for commuters is access to Liverpool Airport, with no major rail link to the city’s sole airport. The Metro Mayor said he agreed with some of the frustration.

He said, “Everybody’s aware what we’ve got at the moment isn’t good enough. If you’re going into the airport, you get off at Liverpool South Parkway and then how do you get to John Lennon?

“It’s quite tricky so there’s a number of things we’ve looked at but it needs a system that is affordable and reliable but is not out of our price range. We haven’t got limitless funding but there are other solutions.”

Mr Rotheram, a passionate football fan, hinted at progress at Everton’s new home and the ever expanding presence for Liverpool FC. He said, “On the football side of things, Bramley Moore has really poor transport links at the moment because it’s not used but when there’s 50,000 people going there, something’s going to have to change to get people out of cars otherwise there’ll be traffic chaos. 

“We’ve been planning that for a couple of years with Everton. The extended and expanded capacity at Anfield has meant there are real issues getting people away from that stadium and what can we do to make that more rapid to get them away from there?”

His Tory opponent went a step further, saying it was time for a debate on an elevated rail line between Bramley Moore and the cruise liner terminal. She said, “With the new football stadium opening and our cruise liner terminal being busier than ever, we need to make sure our transport will be able to handle the increase in footfall.

“We already know the road infrastructure in that area has been troublesome.”

Image: www.fotopiaimages.com

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