To celebrate almost a week passing without any noticeable change to the bus lanes (early days yet, like) we thought we’d turn our thoughts to transport around the city. We’re doing this before our roads become like one huge Fast and Furious franchise, when Delta Taxis doughnut into town (anyone else been nearly mown down by them, as they mount the pavement to run into Tescos on Hanover Street for a Snickers?)

Liverpool’s always fretted about travel. We’re a tight knit city on three sides, with a watery barrier that forces town planners to be crafty with their civic manoeuvres. It’s why someone came up with the pedestrians in the sky concept, why we’re desperate to be connected to the HS2 network, and why we’re still playing catch up to Manchester Airport. Not having a 360 degree catchment means we’re, literally, at the end of the road.

In truth, we think the bus lane rationalisation is a good thing. And, though it pains us to say it (and to take a dogleg up Islington) the four congested routes they’ve clawed back make sense.

But there are still, we think, ways to make the city – all of the city – move smarter. We’re going to look at a few in the coming weeks.

Imagine this: imagine if the city had a massive highway right at its core that it didn’t use at all. One that connected the main attractions, hotels, business delegates and tourist gateways. One that could ease congestion on The Strand, even just a little bit?

We have. It’s the docks.

When ACC’s Exhibition Centre comes onstream next autumn, it will further boost our city’s reputation as a place where the world comes to do business. We saw tantalising glimpses of this at IFB.

Now imagine a water taxi service that links it to the Albert Dock, Malmaison, the £36 million new Titanic Hotel, the new Sound City site and, upstream, to the Festival Gardens, the apartments along Riverside Drive and John Lennon Airport. Imagine if that relieved The Strand of just ten per cent of its load, making it not quite the cyclists’ death race it is currently?

cwt2Other watery cities have them: Stockholm, Chicago, Baltimore, London. From pier to pier, wharf to wharf, they connect the waterside’s big hitters. As they could do here.

We could have stops at Brunswick, Delifonseca and the Travelodge, Kings Dock, the Marina, Albert Dock, Pier Head, Queen’s Dock for the Baltic Triangle – all the way to Canada Dock.

Stockholm-Ferry-BoatYes, there are tides to consider. But get this: there were tides to consider when these docks handled 40% of all the world’s trade. So you’re not going to tell us a few vaporettos filled with BBC Worldwide delegates, visiting their ACC conference and heading back to the Crowne Plaza is going to scuttle us?

We – foolishly – dismantled the Docker’s Umbrella. Who’s for the Docker’s Waders? Three hundred years ago we built the world’s first commercial dry dock. Next year, we could reanimate them for a new city. And we could show our millions of visitors the best ever view of our UNESCO waterfront. And if you flew into LJLA, which route would you enjoy best – through Speke, or up the riverfront?

To journey from Travelodge at Brunswick to the Pier Head, in peak time on The Strand (all of 1.8 miles) could take you 15 minutes, and wouldn’t be especially enjoyable. Hop on a water taxi and you’ll decongest The Strand, and be door to door in no time.

No fewer than 30 of the city’s major hotels and apartments would be within a three minute walk of a water taxi stop: shuttling punters from Lionel Richie concert/ Beatles Museum/ Cruise ship stopover/ Albert Dock meal or Sound City rave… to their bed in next to no time.

The city’s talked about The Strand in its SIF (Strategic Investment Framework) – imagining a central reservation blooming with mini-parks, and bisected with super crossings. This can only happen if we take away some of its burden. So we need to think about the little things.

Visitor numbers are rising year on year for the Albert Dock. Last year saw 5.8 million tramp its cobbles. It links to the city’s busiest hotels and, when Stanley Dock’s hub of leisure and retail comes finally onboard, it could form the watery nexus of a new way of riverside travel.

Let’s face it – the Duckmarine ain’t coming back. For that, at least, we should be thankful.

17 Responses to “Taxi for Mr Anderson – the city highway we forgot”

  1. Philip Stratford

    The trams are practical and useful (though my Mancunian friends tell me they’re pretty unreliable), but I hate the way they carve up the streets and for that reason I’m glad Liverpool doesn’t have them. Piccadilly Gardens just feels like a giant tram interchange, and walking around it is like running the gauntlet with the trams.

    I don’t even know where they would have gone in our tightly-packed city centre.

  2. Philip Stratford

    This is a great idea, but it’d have to be fast and frequent. It’d also be good if some of the same water taxis could cross the river to the Wirral, or at the very least if they had very good, fast connections with the ferries. You’re right about the trip to and from LJLA – imagine how much more pleasant, and impressive for visitors, it’d be to get off a plane, jump on a river taxi and be dropped off at the Pier Head 15 minutes later.

  3. Historic Liverpool

    I like the idea. In Bristol there’s a very successful river taxi service, and it only costs about £3 to get from one end of the harbour to the other (where Temple Meads Station stands). I know that the landscape of the Bristol harbour is a little different (narrow river with stops on both sides) but it could help as inspiration.

  4. Andreas Schulze Bäing

    Rotterdam has got a water taxi service – using high speed boats it’s quite exciting for tourists. I nearly fell off the boat due to the sudden acceleration. But I’m not sure I like them from an environmental perspective (noise/energy consumption). I do prefer proper ferries, ideally integrated into one public transport tariff system like they have in Hamburg with their harbour ferries.

  5. Squirrelnuts Jones

    If Liverpool (by your odd definition that stops at the river) is the end of the road, where the hell is Birkenhead – in another dimension?
    And then there’s your idea that that the city is ‘tight knit’ on the its other sides. Funnily looking at the map Liverpool sprawls amorphously out through a jumble of C20th suburbs before blending with another town (a real other town this one, not a bit of Liverpool like Bootle, Birkenhead or Wallasey that happens to have its bins emptied by another council), St Helens. Ditto northwards with only the 1949 Green Belt Act stopping complete urbanisation along the string of suburbs on the A59 and A565 corridors.
    Finally, apart from the fact they sank, the Dukws were great.

  6. Squirrelnuts Jones

    The last time I drove west from Liverpool city centre and stayed on the same road, I went through Tranmere, Bromborough, Eastham, Ellesmere Port, bypassed Chester and wound up in Whitchurch. Whitchurch appears to be the end of the road rather than Liverpool. 🙁

  7. bornagainst

    Good article. Every option beyond single occupancy cars should be explored.
    Starting with pedestrians – the ability to walk around a city should be absolutely paramount in any infrastructure decisions. Add in river taxi’s (They won’t take up any existing space :)… Dedicated cycle lanes (The recent moneyfest Strand refurb giving cyclists nothing at all)… Buses & Merseyrail and you’d have a city that is easy to travel around. Tourists, commuters, shoppers, students…

    To see how far we are behind, go for a pint outside the Baltic Fleet on a sunny day and watch the traffic. Awful roads (dangerously broken surfaces in places) choked with heavy queuing briefly broken up by desperate racing from one set of lights to the next.

    Never mind that the Tory daydream money for road developments to Seaforth docks won’t happen til years after the Liverpool2 docks development comes online and all you can say for certain is that the road traffic to the north is going to get worse. Probably a lot worse.

  8. David Emmott

    We’ve got Merseyrail, which is potentially much more efficient and valuable than a tram system. What happened to the money earmarked for our trams which it was promised could be used to upgrade Merseyrail? At the very least, the City Line services should be diverted through the currently unused Wapping tunnel, either to link with the Northern Line at Central or, with a short extension along the Strand, to Liverpool One and James Street.

  9. Daniel O'Connor

    I think it is just wales for now, but I do believe there is a proposal from a New Brighton to LJA route? That seems logical to me, as does the idea of the proper ferries coming to New Bo… basically if it goes on water and comes to New Brighton count me in. Remember that mental fella in the car at the Tall Ships? He was ace? Where’s he?

  10. Nik Glover

    I lived in Sheffield for three years and loved the trams. Motorists hated them because they created a horrific one way system in their wake, but for anyone who just wants to get around the city centre or out to Meadowhell they’re great.

  11. I live on a boat in the docks and have worked as a Boatmaster on passenger boats, mainly on the canals. Sadly, this idea isn’t really a goer, although we do already have an excellent ‘water taxi’ service that’s been successfully running for hundreds of years in the shape of the Mersey Ferries.

    Firstly, no boat service would be any quicker than travelling the Strand by road at even it’s most congested time. There’s a (not strongly enforced) 4mph speed limit in all the docks, and it takes time to safely board and disembark passengers. Secondly, the main Liverpool Docks (Brunswick to Stanley) are severed in half by the Hartley Bridge in the Albert Dock, between the Tate and the Maritime Museum. The gate has to be lowered to allow boats through, and this can only be done at certain times of the day, as the water levels in the adjacent Canning Half Tide Dock are changeable, and requires costly manpower.

    While the idea of a water taxi as an alternative to public and private transport is very hard to make viable, since the demise of the Duckmarine the docks are indeed underused and almost inaccessible to passengers. The stretch of canal that runs past the Liver Buildings is one of the newest in the country and takes you on one of the most magnificent routes on the whole canal network, through the Stanley Dock. However, it is only accessible to private boat owners, and even then you have to book a passage, which is almost unique on all of the UK’s 2200 miles of canal.

    For this incredible tourist attraction not to have a passenger service is a huge oversight. If you search my previous posts you’ll see I mention a boat that the council paid for, but unfortunately due to comedic mismanagement (no one measured the bridges), was never able to perform its intended task of bringing passengers along the Liverpool Canal Link from the Leeds Liverpool canal. You’ll also see many articles in the news about the overcrowding of residential boats in areas like London and Bath. There’s barely a boat to be seen between Kirkdale and Maghull, and if we made our canal an area to be proud of instead of an area to dump shopping trolleys, we could bring some much needed regeneration to this area of north Liverpool.

  12. John Walker

    Sorry David, but there was no promise of a transfer of funds from the failed tram scheme to rail – funding streams are completely different, and timescales for advance planning equally different, so get to know your GRIP stages. If anything assigned ‘only on paper’ tram scheme funding went to Edinburgh’s over-budget tram scheme, which featured none other than our former Merseytravel C/E Neil Scales as a non-exec Director!

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