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?
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.
Yes, 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.