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Liverpool CR develops plan to boost city centre rail capacity

07 August 2020

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority wants the Government to back a major rail capacity scheme in Liverpool city centre. 

The combined authority’s Covid-19 economic recovery plan includes a project to increase capacity at Liverpool Central, the busiest station in the conurbation. The CA has put a £500m estimated price tag on the works.

A combined authority spokesman explained the project to LTT this week. “The current development work is reviewing a number of options. The base option expands the passenger capacity of the station. While not impacting on the number of services that can operate through the station, it does provide greater operational resilience and enable the extension of existing services.

“An alternative option considers the expansion of Central to allow more trains to both operate through and terminate at the station as well as expanding the passenger capacity. 

“Clearly there is a cost attached to this (not yet finalised) and will be part of the business case review. This option would allow the future linking of services between the Northern and City Lines.” 

The Northern Line of the Merseyrail Electrics concession comprises services from Southport, Kirkby and Ormskirk to Liverpool city centre and Hunts Cross to the south. About two-thirds of Northern Line services from the north currently terminate at Liverpool Central.

The City Line is the name for local services that run out of Liverpool Lime Street to places such as Wigan, St Helens, and Warrington Central. 

A proposal exists to link up the Northern and City lines by building new track from Edge Hill via the disused Wapping Tunnel.  A report presented to Transport for the North’s board last week states: “If four to eight trains per hour were diverted away from Lime Street via Wapping Tunnel, this would provide significant opportunity for Lime Street station to become a dedicated inter-city and inter-regional hub for the city region.” 

TfN says a 2016 feasibility study into connecting the City Line and Northern Line did not identify any technical barriers to the project.

LTT asked the combined authority spokesman if connecting the City Line and Northern Line would allow Lime Street to accommodate proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and HS2 services. 

The spokesman said: “It is the ambition of the combined authority to have a dedicated HS2/NPR multi-modal transport hub. We do not support options for the further expansion of Liverpool Lime Street to accommodate HS2/NPR services and hence the potential re-location of other City Line services.”

Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram appointed a commission last March to develop plans for a new city centre station to accommodate HS2 and NPR services.    

Other transport projects in the city-region’s economic recovery plan include:

  • re-opening St James station on the Northern Line in Liverpool city centre; and a new station at Headbolt Lane, between Kirkby and Rainford
  • a new road – the Liverpool John Lennon Airport eastern access corridor – connecting the south Liverpool estuary area to the strategic highway network 
  • a new strategic rail freight interchange (SRFI) on the site of the former Parkside colliery, near Newton-le-Willows.

CA wants more hydrogen buses

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is calling on the Government to fund an extra 20 hydrogen fuel cell buses for the conurbation, which would take the total fleet to 40. 

The combined authority is using £10m of its Transforming Cities Fund grant to purchase up to 20 hydrogen fuel cell double deckers for use by Arriva and Stagecoach on the St Helens to Liverpool corridor. Merseytravel will lease the vehicles to operators at a rate that provides parity with existing diesel fleets.

Operators have indicated that a fleet of 40 vehicles would cover the peak vehicle requirement of the route. 

BOC Linde is funding a hydrogen refuelling station at its?premises in St Helens. The station is expected to be operational by December 2021.  

The combined authority is requesting £16.9m from Government, of which £10.9m would pay for 20 buses at £545,000 per bus, and £6m would contribute to expansion of the hydrogen refuelling station. 

Merseytravel plans to place an order for hydrogen buses in December. “The choice of bus manufacturer will influence the delivery timeline,” says the CA. “The fastest delivery forecast is up to nine months post-order. The longest timeline would see buses delivered in mid- to late-2022.” ?

The buses are the first part of a plan to develop a hydrogen economy in the conurbation. This would include more hydrogen-powered buses, plus refuse and other back-to-base local authority vehicles. 

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