The region’s leaders came together to discuss a range of common issues and opportunities, including how an integrated ‘London-style’ regional transport network can improve job and skills opportunities, tackle climate change and grow a thriving local and regional economy.
St Helens is in an enviable position at the gateway between the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester, with a number of cross-boundary bus services and strong rail links to Liverpool, Manchester, Warrington, Wigan and beyond. Improving cross-boundary public transport links can unlock the true potential of an area by cutting journey times, allowing greater access to jobs, and housing opportunities, supporting new regeneration and providing better opportunities for young people and green travel. An example of this is the new Liverpool City Region’s publicly owned hydrogen buses on the 10/10A route between Liverpool and St Helens. The service is soon to run on the first ‘green bus route’ in the region, and will benefit from a combination of priority lanes, traffic signal upgrades and remodelled junctions, all aimed at cutting journey time, as well as upgraded, accessible passenger facilities.
Improving public transport links not only benefits passengers, but it is also critical to maximising economic opportunities, such as those at Omega and the regionally significant site at Parkside. The Parkside site which recently received approval from the Secretary of State for Phase 1 planning application and link road, forms a significant part of the M6 growth corridor, and with two key rail routes has the potential for a strategic rail freight interchange, supporting the ability for freight modal shift from road to rail. Freeport status at the Port of Liverpool and Parkside’s position as its key tax site, means effective transport links are needed for both the port and Parkside to reach their full potential.
Other areas of transport collaboration that formed part of the discussions included the heavily congested Junction 23 at Haydock Island on the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester boarder. The junction forms a key part of the strategic road network and is influential in creating a successful M6 logistics corridor. St Helens Borough Council – in consultation with Wigan Council and National Highways – has undertaken an initial feasibility study to identify possible improvements in the junction, which formed part of the Local Plan and were presented to the Planning Inspector as part of the recent planning appeal, as part of the examination in public.
Meanwhile, a major sustainable and active travel project is on track after planning permission was granted recently for an upgraded railway station at Lea Green, one of the borough’s busiest stations.
Forming part of the St Helens Southern Gateway scheme – a joint partnership between St Helens Borough Council; Liverpool City Region and Northern Rail – improvements include a new station building with waiting room and other customer facilities, along with a decked car park, taking park and ride capacity to around 450 vehicles.
David Baines, Leader of St Helens Borough Council said:
“I’m extremely grateful to Mayor Andy Burnham and Mayor Steve Rotheram for accepting our invitation to come to St Helens and to colleagues from Wigan, Warrington and regional transport organisations for joining us. Both Mayors have set out transformational plans to improve public transport in their regions and for places like St Helens, Wigan and Warrington where residents travel both ways for work, family or leisure, it’s vital we make sure the plans in each region work for us – and that’s what this meeting was about.
“I want all St Helens residents to be able to benefit from reliable, affordable and convenient public transport, particularly buses which account for around 80 per cent of all public transport journeys locally.
“It’s great for St Helens to be organising and hosting meetings like this and we are determined to be at the heart of ongoing discussions and delivering the improvements residents want to see.”
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region said:
“Good public transport is vital for connecting our communities with opportunity and with each other, but too many people face being left behind by a transport system that does not work for them.
“Across the North West, we are leading the march towards better, more affordable public transport. I want our region to have what London has had for decades: a network that is quick, cheap, reliable and makes getting around as easy as possible.
“Alongside the rollout of our new £500m publicly owned trains, efforts to deliver better, smarter ticketing, and work to expand and better connect our network – including a potential new station at Carr Mill – this is a really exciting time for transport in the Liverpool City Region.”
Speaking after the meeting, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “It’s really good to be here in St Helens with my friend and colleague Steve Rotheram, the Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, but also David Baines, Leader of St Helens Council, bringing together colleagues from Wigan, Warrington and St Helens to look at improving transport connectivity between the three boroughs.
“Because they’re on the fringes of both city regions, I think sometimes their needs have been overlooked. That’s why it’s great that we’re coming together, looking at a plan for transport across this area to maximise the economic development that’s coming as well, and the opportunities there. It’s really good to be here and I think there’s huge amounts we can do to improve connectivity as we change public transport in Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region.”