Maybe the Friends of the Flyover thing will happen, maybe it won’t (of course, it should, if common sense prevails). But, in the meantime, here’s something to chew over.

What about, while we wait for our own High Line, we seriously consider a Low Line? Like this beauty. Fanciful science fiction? Well, just hold on a second…

lowline-lab-3_wmIt’s a fact, isn’t it, that the city’s green spaces – zones to just roam, run, relax – are now squarely in the sites of a Council that seems, at best, ambivalent towards their value. Even our head of planning has come out and said our green spaces are his favourite hunting ground.

Sefton Park Meadows, Woolton Golf Course, Calderstones – what price their protection? Because, when Joe talks about green space added, he does a clever little calculation: adding up a flattened house here, a scrubland here, an abandoned Amazon here, to make a round figure of ‘lots of new green space’. But, of course, if they’re not joined up, they’re no use to man nor dog. Nor pram.

edge hill cutting 2But here’s the thing. Liverpool’s got miles of empty space. You just need to know where to look. Underground. And that’s exactly what some other cities are starting to do. New York for one. Their experimental Low Line project is seriously testing the feasibility of such an out-there concept.

But guess what? New York hasn’t done nearly the same about of groundwork as we have. We’ve more miles of disused railways below our feet than any city outside London. The Dingle Tunnel is half a mile long complete with an underground station. That’d cost, what, upwards of £600 million to bore out today? And there it sits. Wasted.

edge hillThe oldest rail tunnel running under city streets, in the world? That’s right here. Wasted. Crown Street Station, the world’s first passenger station, built by George Stephenson, connects to a tunnel 300 metres long (over three football pitches). Another, the Wapping line, contains one of the oldest rail tunnels in the world. A 1.07 mile tunnel goes from Edge Hill to Lime Street in Liverpool’s city centre, much of which remains open to the elements, but countersunk below the city. Useless for an Amazon barn. Perfect for a stygian park. Think Liverpool Cathedral’s wondrous St James Gardens.

Make no mistake, Liverpool was a pioneer in railway tunnels. The Liverpool tunnels pre-date any tunnel in New York or London. Could an audacious plan to seed them back into another form of life be possible?

The historic 1929 Crown Street Tunnel is partially collapsing at the Crown Street end, due to lack of maintenance, as the subsidence in the street surface above indicates. So, whatever happens, something needs to be done.

the-low-lineIn New York, the Low Line seeks to colonise and landscape the Delancey Underground – a disused slice of sub Manhattan real estate that, frankly, is no good for anything else. Light will be stolen from above via strategically placed apertures. We know how to do that too – the city’s littered with hidden ventilation shafts feeding air into the network of tunnels.

“Our plan to use innovative solar technology to illuminate an historic trolley terminal on the Lower East Side of New York City. Our vision is a stunning underground park, providing a beautiful respite and a cultural attraction in one of the world’s most dense, exciting urban environments,” they explain.

“Despite six decades of neglect, the space still retains some incredible features, like crisscrossing rail tracks and vaulted ceilings,” they say of these pollution-free spaces to run, breathe, escape the city a while.

They plan to use solar collection dishes – linked super-sized mirrors sucking light from above into darkness below, and a series of fibre-optic light pools. Sounds very Black Mirror, but actually is surprisingly entry level tech. Artificial lighting (solar powered from above) would fill in the blanks. They’ve tested it. It works. And, of course, there’s always the option of punching a hole through: see the porthole into the Old Dock at Liverpool ONE.

original_lowlineFact is, it’s an idea. A way to bring something (metaphorically at least) to the surface that’s been buried, unused and forgotten about for more than 60 years All that manpower. All those raw materials, All that work we’ve already done.

Surely, at the very least, we should discuss the stuff we’ve shoved under the city’s carpet?

liverpool waters nightIs it just us, or, with the benefit of a couple of years’ distance, do those Liverpool Waters images just look so embarrassingly outdated now? They come on like some incredibly naff oligarch’s playground. Maybe Peel, the city, those who aren’t afraid of a little blue sky thinking, should start looking for the answer in deepest, darkest space.

5 Responses to “Are the City’s Next Parks Hiding Beneath Our Feet?”

  1. The flyover is hideous. A concrete monstrosity tearing people from city and partly responsible for killing off both London Road and Dale Street, and looking like the worst of the sixties while doing so.

    The tunnels under the city are an incredible asset in waiting that other cities would give their eye teeth for. Not to create some ill conceived dank super-underpass for the muggings of the future to take place, but for, controversially, developing the public transportation system.

    The daft flyover idea successfully muddied the water over its demolition, meaning we are probably now saddled with it forever (so that’s Dale Street’s future too). Is someone now going to do the same for the tunnels? I hope not, because if so there is a lot more riding on this than anyone salivating over the above pie in the earth idea would fathom.

    I have no idea why so many people harbour such low ambition for our city. How could anyone look at the tunnels and not see their actual usefulness for a Liverpool resurgent.

  2. No. These structures are too important to our heritage to repurpose them into something as daft as subterranean gardens. They need to be restored and used for education and a tourist attraction.

  3. goldenblls

    No. Liverpool’s railway heritage is to be preserved and developed. Liverpool pioneered intercity rail travel, which then ushered in the modern world.

    We’re sitting on potential that could be a huge tourist attraction. If only Liverpool Museums could make it happen. I’m surprised Seven Streets hasn’t looked into this further.

  4. The flyover is used each and every day. It’s not pretty, but it has a use. How is it ‘tearing people from city’ and how is it responsible for killing off London Road and Dale St? I don’t follow the logic. Why should it get demolished and what would replace it?

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