For the fifth of the Interpro series of lectures leading up to the 175th anniversary of Albert Dock’s opening, the theme was transport and logistics. The event was organised by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation, and the Transport Planning Society.
Three speakers investigated landside access and movement at the Waterfront in both the industrial and post-industrial eras.
Sharon Brown, Curator of Land Transport and Industry, Museum of Liverpool, part of National Museums Liverpool, discussed historical modes of transport. Railways were still relatively new when Albert Dock opened, but Liverpool’s significant role in railway history meant that the docks already had tracks and tunnels to move cotton and other goods to the wider rail network, for example the now disused Wapping Tunnel, dating from 1830 and designed by George Stephenson.
Sharon evoked the bustling scenes along the Waterfront, where carters and their horses pulled high and heavy loads of cotton and other goods, and a man with a red flag warned of oncoming steam locomotives. Above ground level, the unique Overhead Railway ferried dockers and sometimes tourists along the docks. All these transport modes were crucial to dock operations at various times until the closure of the South Docks in 1972.
When the South Docks were operational, the Waterfront was cut off from the city centre. But with the regeneration and subsequent change of use that Albert Dock has undergone from the 1980s, that disconnection has still not been properly addressed.
Andy Barr, Assistant Director, Highways & Planning at Liverpool City Council, focused firmly on Liverpool’s present and near future, explaining the planned £100m three-year investment in the Waterfront highway infrastructure and how this will benefit Royal Albert Dock Liverpool, now a major tourist attraction.
The road layout, he pointed out, is little changed, but nowadays lorries, cars, buses, coaches, cyclists and pedestrians are all vying for space and safe passage. Andy discussed how several projects, some completed and others underway, would connect with and improve access to Royal Albert Dock Liverpool and the wider waterfront area.
Andy did not shy away from the controversial plan to narrow The Strand and Strand Street, and explained its rationale and how it would work with other traffic initiatives.
Future plans and radical solutions were also hinted at, and Richard Knowles, Professor of Transport Geography at the University of Salford and Visiting Professor of Transport at the University of Huddersfield, showed how a light rail transport system had benefitted regenerated port areas in Salford, London’s Isle of Dogs and Copenhagen.
Could Liverpool even resurrect the Overhead Railway for modern times, he suggested, or reinstate a railway station on the Waterfront? The right transports systems not only improve accessibility but also facilitate regeneration.
But for the thorny issue of funds, these could be popular and workable proposals. Richard presented examples where the private sector had contributed to public transport schemes with mutual benefit – with all the development planned for the wider waterfront, developer contributions and public/private partnerships would surely constitute a logical way forward.
Efficient transport systems in and around Liverpool docks were essential for the successful operation and development of the port. When Albert Dock opened in 1846 it was at the heart of the Liverpool dock estate and was well served by existing or forthcoming transport systems.
The Liverpool/Manchester Railway opened in 1830, and was the first timetabled, steam-hauled passenger and freight railway in the world. Although the thought of being whirled at high speeds was daunting for many people, the design of the station buildings and their ethos set a precedent for railway buildings around the world.
“To be whirled at the rate of eighteen or twenty miles an hour, by means of a high pressure engine, to be told that they…. are not to be scalded to death nor drowned by the bursting of the boiler….or dashed in pieces by the flying off, or breaking of a wheel.”1
This quotation from 1825 questioning the safety of the proposed railwayreveals the horror that people had of travelling at 18-20mph. If you were used to walking, riding a horse or going on a carriage it would have been terrifying to think about being conveyed at such speeds. The worries about being dashed to bits or scalded to death by the boilers were unfounded, however, and the railway went on to become a massive success.
Although passengers travelling into Liverpool initially alighted at Crown Street Station and continued into the city centre by horse and carriage, freight coming into Liverpool was moved into and out of the city via the Wapping Tunnel. This ran for over a mile and a half from Edge Hill to Wapping Goods Station, close to Albert Dock.
Jesse Hartley became the city’s dock engineer in 1824 but he was also appointed by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company as civil engineer and inspecting engineer and arbitrator for the Wapping Tunnel when construction began in 1826. He was respected as a skilled professional and was described as “…a man of large build and powerful frame, rough in manner and occasionally rude, using expletives which the angel of mercy would not like to record. Sometimes capricious and tyrannical, but where he was attached, a firm and unswerving friend.”2As a man who made a huge impact on Liverpool’s built environment, we have a lot to thank him for.
The Wapping Tunnel was designed by George Stephenson and was the first major tunnel to run under a busy town. For safety reasons, Parliament forbade the use of locomotives. Also, the gradient of 1:48 down to the docks meant that existing locomotives couldn’t cope; so stationary engines were built into the spectacular Moorish Arch at Edge Hill to haul the carriages up through the tunnels by rope and pulley. The trains travelling down towards the dock moved by gravity only, with a brakeman on board.
The walls of the tunnel were whitewashed and lit by gaslights provided by the Liverpool Gas Company, with jets every fifty yards. Before the tunnel opened in July 1829, the public was allowed to walk through and there are many records of people’s thoughts about it. A note was sent to the company directors on 10th August describing the tunnel as a ‘stupendous excavation’. The temperature was declared cold but not raw and the atmosphere perfectly pure and unconfined as it had free passage from end to end. The tunnel was said to be fit enough for the most delicate female!
Cotton traded through Albert Dock was a very common load through the tunnel, along with silks, tea, coffee, sugar, rice and wool, and it was a very efficient operation. As technology progressed, the haulage was eventually done by steam locomotive and then by diesel shunters. But as traffic to Albert and the surrounding docks decreased, the station eventually closed, with the tunnel abandoned in 1972.
The Mersey Docks and Harbour Board Dock Railway ran along the perimeter of the dock estate, from Herculaneum Dock in the south to Gladstone Dock in the north. It didn’t enter the docks, but was a conduit between the quaysides and the large number of railway goods stations on the east side of the dock road. A section of the line ran unsegregated from other road traffic along the dock road. It was initially a horse-hauled railway system, but the banned locomotives were eventually introduced in 1895. Safety concerns along the busy docks meant that they were restricted to four miles an hour. A man walked in front of the train with a red flag to warn people it was coming.
A locomotive had to have spark arrestors fitted to their chimneys to reduce the risk of fire and a warning bell mechanism, which would ring whenever it was in motion. The saddle tank locomotive known as MDHB No 1 is in the collection of National Museums Liverpool and is one of our most requested vehicles to see. It’s not on display at the moment but you can visit it in store.
Carters and their Horses
Goods were landed from ships directly into the warehouses of Albert Dock and this new facility ensured that the goods were safely offloaded straight from the ships into the warehouse. But horses and carts were needed to get them from the warehouse to the railway or anywhere else, and stretching back over 250 years Liverpool carters have a proud and important history.
Our working horses were considered to be the best in the country, according to this quote from a 1914 guidebook: “It is the boast of Liverpool that the horses employed in the city’s industry are the finest in the kingdom, and it is a boast to which it is scarcely possible to take exception.”
It wasn’t just the horses that were the best, but also the carters. They were renowned for their skills in handling the phenomenal weights that they hauled. At their peak there were 25,000 horses working on the streets of Liverpool, more than any other city outside of London. By 1891 there were over 5,000 carters working in the industry, and by 1916 the Handbook of Employment recorded 1,012 boys, 9,925 men and 12 women as being employed in the industry. Many held permanent posts – there were a lot of large and small companies and one-man operations, or you could get work from ‘carters’ corner’, which was similar to the dockers’ stand where dockers went to get casual work. There were two official corners in the city, one at Hopwood Street off Scotland Road in the north, and one at Warwick Street in Toxteth in the south.
Most of the carters started working at the stables at an early age. They had parents, grandparents or uncles who were carters in the city, or they lived on a street where there were many stables. Imagine how many stables 20,000 horses needed. Many carters grew up on a street with a stable on it, and this is how they got started in their trade. They learned how to do the job and all the tricks of the trade from the older carters. There was no formal trading, no apprenticeships. It was all done by word of mouth and practical work.
Everyone helped everyone else. It’s what I’ve been told was the carters’ code. You didn’t necessarily know everybody’s name but everybody had a nickname, so there was Jimmy Woodbine, who was always asking to ‘borrow’ a cigarette, or there was Popeye, who had hidden strength. Anything and everything was carried and the men had to be skilled at loading their wagon so that nothing came off going up a steep hill or round a sharp corner, or in bad weather. There was no safety clothing, just a sack over their shoulders, and no weather was bad enough for them not to go out – thick snow, wind, rain – nothing put them off, they just got on with the job.
Jobs were very varied depending on where you worked, so you could be moving cotton, steel, wood, cornflakes or general foodstuffs. Larger loads could require a specialist vehicle such as a timber drag, or just some skill and ingenuity to make sure they loaded their wagon properly and got to where they needed to go. Cotton was a regular load and it came into Liverpool from all over the world – the Congo, America, Egypt, Brazil, and the most expensive came from Ireland. A lot of the carters didn’t like to move it because it was so delicate, but others were happy because it was lighter than the normal loads they had to haul.
A cargo of cotton couldn’t be offloaded into a single warehouse. With no health and safety at work, there were a lot of fires along the docks and in warehouses, and if your cotton was all in the same warehouse and went up in a fire, the insurance company wouldn’t pay out. So it had to be distributed to different places.
Carters had longstanding complaints about long working hours, low pay and poor working conditions. They weren’t formally unionised until 1889 with the formation of the Mersey Quay and Railway Carters’ Union. They instituted a twelve-hour day (previously a lot longer) with fixed rates of pay at 29 shillings for a team carter, and 26 shillings for a single horse carter. The name was changed in 1918 to the Liverpool and District Carters’ and Motormen’s Union and they brought about further changes and improvements in working conditions and went onto become the most prestigious and famous road haulage union in the country.
Around the time Albert Dock was nearing closure in the 1960s, the carters’ way of life was also coming to an end. Quicker and probably cheaper steam, petrol and diesel wagons were taking over their work. A V Crutchley & Sons was the last firm to operate along the dock road and their horse-drawn operations came to an end in 1968.
The carters loved their horses, and a retired group of carters came to visit the museum not long after I had started working there and said they wanted to set up a fund to put up a monument to the Liverpool working horses, so I became the secretary of their group. We worked for thirteen years to fund raise £120,000 to erect our monument, which you can see outside the Museum of Liverpool. It was unveiled on 1st May 2010 and is a hopefully permanent monument representing the history of the Liverpool carters who did so much for the economy of this city.
The Docker’s Umbrella
So how did the people who worked in Albert Dock and the surrounding area get to work? Most of them would walk, or they could get the horse-drawn tram or bus, depending on what era they were in. As early as 1850 there were plans for either an overground or underground railway. These plans were developed several decades later when it was decided to build the Liverpool Overhead Railway. This took five years to build and opened in 1893. It cost £550,000 and actually came in £35,000 under budget. How often does that happen with transport projects now?
After some consideration they decided to use electric trains, so when it opened it became the first elevated electric railway in the world. The service ran between 5am and 11.30pm and in 1894, its first full year of operation, it carried 6.5m passengers. It reached its peak in 1919 when it carried 17.2m passengers. The original route ran from Alexandra Dock in the north to Herculaneum dock in the south, and had 13 stations, although several other stations opened and closed throughout its lifetime. It was extended to Seaforth in 1894 and Dingle in 1896 to try and cater for people who wanted to use the railway in the evening for a night out or at the weekends to go to Seaforth Sands or across to New Brighton.
It was also a popular tourist destination and fantastic posters were produced to entice people to travel on the Overhead Railway, from which they could look at the wonders of the River Mersey and all the docks and the ships – it must have been an absolutely amazing sight. As a schoolchild you could go on a trip along the railway and get off to look at a working dock, the ships that were coming in, and what they were loading and offloading, and then get back on the train and go home.
The Overhead Railway had a unique steel track bed that sheltered everything underneath it and that’s what gave it its nickname, the Dockers’ Umbrella. The last surviving motor coach from the railway can be seen at the Museum of Liverpool, displayed in a dedicated gallery at its authentic height of 16 feet.
In 2007 the Museum of Liverpool held an Open Day to find people who had worked on the Overhead Railway and the response was excellent. People had tales to tell of meeting their husband or wife, or of travelling on it to work. They said that the motor coaches were smelly and dirty and told us not to make it look too clean because the dockers went to work on it every day with their equipment and tools and came back at night dirty and smelly. The windows were always open at night to dissipate the smells, so it got the nickname of the Pneumonia Express.
The electric automatic block signalling system used on the railway was the first one of its kind in the country and permission had to be obtained from the Board of Trade to deviate from the normal mechanical system. The contract was let to a local company, the Railway Signal Company, based at Fazakerley. Coloured lights were added in 1921 and these could be seen 3,000 feet away, in fog or in bright sunlight and they held a good safety record. One of the original signals can be seen on display in the Museum of Liverpool.
Pier Head Station was the grandest and busiest of all the stations, providing a service for passengers and dockworkers travelling to the landing stages to cross the river. It had a huge impact and together with its bowstring bridge, provided a landmark at the Pier Head. Custom House Station, the closest station to Albert Dock, stood at the junction of Strand Street and Canning Place and served the Customs & Excise building in Canning Place.
The Custom House was built between 1828 and 1839 by the city architect John Foster, on the site of the original Old Dock that had been built in 1715. It had a huge dome, grand porticoes and was larger in plan than St George’s Hall. Unfortunately this impressive building was bombed during a World War Two raid on 31st August 1940 and very heavily damaged.
Although it was thought to be salvageable, it was controversially demolished in 1949. The Customs & Excise operations moved and the station changed its name to Canning to avoid any confusion. In fitting with its position next to the Custom House, the station was also grand, with double staircases and canopies. All the other stations were quite plain and without any covers.
The Overhead Railway structure and stations suffered quite a lot of damage during the war, especially during the May Blitz of 1941. A regular service was maintained by using connecting buses, what I imagine we’d call today the rail replacement service.
It was a very efficient structure with trains running on it every day, but over sixty years of wear and tear and corrosion took its toll and it did suffer. A report commissioned in 1955 stated that to put the structure right and to keep it running well into the future would cost £2m. The Overhead Railway was owned and run as a private company and revenue was dropping because less people were travelling on it. People had started to use cars and messengers didn’t have to travel by train any more because they could now use telephones or telegrams.
The company didn’t want to take the risk of the railway failing or be responsible for its upkeep, so the decision was taken, through an Act of Parliament, to close it. There was a lot of opposition to this, and many considered a disaster for the people that travelled along the docks every day, believing that closing it could threaten the prosperity of the port. Supporters tried to come up with solutions and get people to take the railway over, but as it was a private company nobody wanted to take it on.
The last day of operation was 30th December 1956. Trains ran from both ends at 10.01pm in the evening and the bells rang and the hooters went off but the railway was no more. It was demolished the following year and by 1957 only a few traces of it remained, as they do today. It was sadly missed as an important transport system but also as a familiar and imposing part of the landscape of the city.
The innovative and efficient transport services that served Albert Dock over the years increased trade and prosperity. However, they all declined and closed with the reduction of traffic into the traditional dock estate. Fortunately Royal Albert Dock Liverpool lives on, writing itself a new history with new transport initiatives designed to keep visitors coming to this wonderful place in our city.
1.Quarterly Review, March 1825
2. Picton, J A Memorials of Liverpool, 2 vols., 1875
Liverpool City Council has a planned £100m investment in the Waterfront highway infrastructure over the next three years that will benefit Royal Albert Dock Liverpool.
This is part of a wider £0.5bn investment that the city is making into infrastructure over next four to five years, and is hugely important in terms of supporting the ongoing regeneration.
The city centre is expanding in all directions. To the north we have Liverpool Waters by Peel Land and Property, to the south there is the city council’s own 90 acre site at Festival Gardens and we are also heavily engaged in development works to the east, with a £1bn worth of works on site at Paddington Village as part of the Knowledge Quarter.
These projects need to be seen not as individual schemes but part of a wider package we’ve termed City Centre Connectivity. This has now morphed into different phases but they are each crucial in supporting access to the waterfront and to Royal Albert Dock Liverpool.
A565 Great Howard Street Bridge Replacement
We were fortunate to be able to bid for this much-needed £10m replacement of a bridge on Great Howard Street a number of years ago through the Department of Transport’s (DfT) Challenge Fund. The structure was failing and we had to impose an emergency three-ton weight limit. This bridge used to go over the railway line that moved goods out of the port and through the Wapping Tunnel. That rail link is no longer there and the site is severed by what is now the Costco development.
We could have either filled the bridge in completely and not replaced it, but we put forward a replacement option to the DfT because we didn’t want to close off any future opportunities to move freight and goods from the port and from the Waterfront out via this route. Although this may involve some significant compulsory purchase orders in terms of the buildings that are currently there, we didn’t want to close that route off at a time when the Superport is growing massively.
Thankfully, the DfT gave us £8.5m and along with £1.2m worth of matched funding from Liverpool City Council, it formed a £9.7m project. I’m sorry to report that when we completed this project we weren’t as good as the guys who brought the Overhead Railway in under budget! Sadly we were £200,000 over budget, bringing it in slightly higher at £9.9m. Nonetheless it’s a hugely important piece of infrastructure without which there would have been continued major impact on the movement of all traffic and road users wanting to access the city along the A565 into the city, out to the wider strategic road network and to the Superport.
North Liverpool Key Corridors
North Liverpool Key Corridors is a £22m investment of wider works. The first project was to make the remaining sections of the A565 at Great Howard Street and Regent Road into a dual carriageway. This was started back in the late 1990s as a project called Atlantic Gateway. This was originally meant to be a continuous dual carriageway all the way from the Superport through Bootle and ending at Leeds Street at the BMW garage. The acquisition of land proved particularly difficult, funding dried up and I believe this went into the ‘too difficult to deal with box’.
The remaining gaps in the infrastructure between Leeds Street and Blackstone Street, and further north between Bank Hall Street and up across the boundary into Sefton Council at Miller’s Bridge, were started by Osborne Construction who won this contract in late 2017. Completion date is expected to be the end of 2019. Part of this works is the significant improvement to infrastructure along Regent Road, with a segregated cycle corridor along its length, and this links into some wider work at the waterfront and onto the Strand Corridor.
Isle of Man Ferry Terminal
City Centre Connectivity Phase 2 is the extension of Leeds Street with a new link road to the relocated Isle of Man ferry terminal. This work is somewhat overshadowed by the work on the cruise liner terminal, but it is also a hugely important piece of infrastructure that will bring much needed improvements. The £60m cruiser liner terminal on the waterfront at Princes Dock will serve 4,500 passenger cruise ships but it cannot work with the Isle of Man terminal in its current location, so a new site has been found for the latter.
It’s the first time that the Manx Government has bought land offshore or built anything offshore and it’s a really big deal for them. The existing infrastructure at the Pier Head is a really poor offer for arrival and exit from the city, and it also creates significant congestion problems on the Waterfront itself, especially in the summer months when the TT Races are on.
So there has been some pressure on the team to get the infrastructure in place by late 2020, in time for the cruise liners to come into the city and dock again as they once did. Graham Construction will deliver the £7.3m link road that will also help to open up the wider Liverpool Waters and Central Docks developments and hopefully start to accelerate some investment into that area. Two residential blocks are already being developed alongside the link road, for example.
Lime Street Gateway
The Local Growth Fund has funded a £45m package of public realm works. This has eight component parts on separate sites but knitted together they provide the connectivity needed to improve the way in which people move about the city.
Lime Street Gateway will massively improve the very poor environment that currently greets passengers arriving at Lime Street Station. Trying to cross the road is a difficult experience, a bit like playing the 1990s computer game Frogger! An alternative is to use the frankly unpleasant pedestrian underpass that takes you from the station itself and out at St George’s Hall.
There will be a major reduction of road space in front of Lime Street Station with better links for pedestrians and cyclists. The public realm and the historic environment will be greatly enhanced with more general improvements and an adaptable event space.
We also need to change the nature of the way buses move around the city, not least to improve the air quality which is detrimentally affected in this location by all the bus movements. We know that traffic copes when Lime Street is closed because of the modelling we’ve done and also as part of the works we’ve engaged in with Ion Development’s new Lime Street frontage.
City Bus Hub
We’ve also worked very closely with the bus operators on a revised highway layout to cut congestion and pollution from buses in this location. There are 7.5m bus passengers a year using Queen Square, with hundreds of buses circulating from north and south. Liverpool One bus station, in comparison, has only 1.5m passengers. This is because when Liverpool One was under construction, Hanover Street was closed for about 18 months and all the bus services transferred to Queen Square. None of the bus operators want to make the move back because they feared losing out to their competitors.
We wanted a radical change and the City Bus Hub at Old Haymarket is one of the most important and perhaps controversial pieces of infrastructure we are creating. Some of the local councillors, residents and businesses in this area don’t want to see this facility provided in this location. But the reason this is so important is because buses using the Queen Square and Lime Street area then use the wider city centre as a turn-around facility and in doing so travel about 0.75m miles in order to go back out on their outward journeys.
All this movement makes the city centre a poor and polluted environment to live and work in and to visit, and providing this dedicated facility will reduce about 2000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) that is currently emitted into the atmosphere by circulating buses.
This is an important public realm intervention at Brownlow Hill to create a fitting entrance to the Knowledge Quarter around what will be known as Paddington Village. This will give it the definition it deserves to reflect the high profile nature of the developments that are happening as a result of the investment we are making here. We are also improving the movement across the campus for pedestrians.
We’re investing £3.5m into this major scheme to improve the infrastructure and public realm of the frontage along Victoria Street, which is probably the worst in the city centre and in desperate need of a good facelift. The subterranean car park in Victoria Street was a building that was bombed in the Second World War and has been a car park since then but has now been redeveloped by the Council at a cost of £6.5m.
Tithebarn Street also has improved public realm and a cycle corridor connecting Lime Street with the Waterfront, and constitutes much-needed improvement in terms of how we move sustainable travel around the city centre.
Moorfields Station suffers from the 1970s principles of walkways in the sky where you have to go up in order to go back down to the platform level. The new Moorfields Station Hub is an important piece of infrastructure and we are working closely with Mersey Travel and Network Rail to look at how we improve the offer and the destination into what is effectively the front door to this part of the commercial district. We are hoping that the station itself will add to the vastly improved public realm facilities and new Grade A office space that the council is building at Pall Mall, which we aim to connect with the main retail area.
The Giants three-day spectacle in September 2018 showed how difficult it is for us to move pedestrians in large numbers around the Waterfront and particularly Canning Dock and the graving docks with only the one bridge that currently exists. Whenever there’s anything going on within Royal Albert Dock Liverpool and the wider area our colleagues in the culture team have to put a temporary one-way system in to move pedestrians around.
So a series of four bridges is planned from Salthouse Quay to the Mann Island side of the docks that will connect across to the Pump House pub area. Three of the bridges will be fixed and the Pump House bridge will be a working bridge that will allow access into the dock system and out into the River Mersey when it is needed for river traffic.
City Coach Park
The rationale for this new facility is that more people come into the city on coaches than on cruise liners, yet we are investing £60m into a cruise liner terminal. The ongoing development and redevelopment at Kings Dock is continually forcing coaches to have to find places on the highway network where we particularly don’t want them.
The new City Coach Park is important for us in terms of traffic and network management and follows on from another small investment that we made a number of years ago into a raised area on Riverside Drive close to the Britannia Inn. It will cater for 35 coaches and will prevent them from having to circulate around the city centre and provide a dedicated lay over where they will have good facilities.
The proposal to narrow the Strand Corridor is perhaps our most controversial scheme but it fits in with our thinking on how we are going to move traffic into the waterfront area. It’s a shame that we don’t still have the Overhead Railway infrastructure in place, as that would have been a fantastic facility. Sadly what we do have is a highway network completely dominated by vehicle traffic, with a complete severance between the city centre and the Waterfront. It has an appalling safety record with four fatalities in the past 18 months, including one of our own staff. That’s as much focus as we need to try and improve the conditions along this section of highway. So we have earmarked £18m worth of investment to sort out the infrastructure here.
The principles that we are going to address here are the difficulties for pedestrian movement and the lack of cycling facilities. We are going to narrow the carriageways on both sides, taking a lane out in each direction, so the three lanes southbound will be narrowed to two and the four lanes going northbound will be reduced to three.
In isolation, of course, this plan would be crazy and wouldn’t work without other interventions. We are going to close off a number of the junctions including Mann Island, which is a similar turn-around facility currently used by a lot of buses circulating across the Strand and up James Street. These cross movements allow them to go back out on their outward journeys but take out a huge amount of capacity in terms of how the Strand operates. This causes much congestion along the Waterfront corridor.
Bath Street to the north will be closed and will become an access service road to the wider Liverpool Waters and hopefully the new Everton Football Club stadium at Bramley Moore Dock. We are also looking to take out a lot of the traffic signal junctions. We will also close Water Street on the river side in order to feed back in a significant amount of capacity.
By narrowing the road we also reduce the number of lanes pedestrians have to cross – four lanes going north, across a wide central reserve, and three lanes going south – all of which creates a huge amount of demand in terms of capacity.
My nan took a picture of this area in 1959 from the site of the former Atlantic Tower hotel, showing the road layout with the Docker’s Umbrella. That road layout hasn’t changed in 60 years. All that we’ve done throughout that time is added more and more traffic signals into the junctions and formalised the road layout that’s existed all that time.
So this is an opportunity to change all that and to change it for the better. We are working very closely with Gower Street Estates and their proposals for Royal Albert Dock Liverpool, including the new Welcome Pavilion at the entrance. We are trying to create a one-way system around Albert Dock that helps to move the traffic in a much easier fashion and helps us to formalise the more simplistic arrangements that we want on the Strand.
We will create a segregated cycling corridor using part of the space that’s released from the traffic lanes we take out. This will form part of a continuous coastal cycle corridor that runs all the way from Southport on the Trans Pennine Trail, linking up with the Sefton Coastal Path at Crosby, incorporating the work that Sefton Council has done to connect up the Port of Liverpool and further down into Miller’s Bridge and the work we are doing on the A565 at the North Liverpool Key Corridors at Regent Road.
The cycleway will come all the way down into the Waterfront and pick up the wider existing coastal cycle network to Otterspool and beyond. It’s a hugely important piece of work and I’m intensely proud to be working as part of that team. I’m excited to see how we can make our transport infrastructure fit for purpose and fit for the development activity that is coming forward along the Waterfront. We want to provide the infrastructure needed to make sure that Royal Albert Dock Liverpool continues for another 175 years after 2021 and beyond that.
Our long-term plans and aspirational projects include a big piece of infrastructure called the Strand Tunnel, which would ultimately take the traffic away from the Strand completely. We’ve done some outline work around what connectivity could look like if the traffic went subterranean and there’s a wide range of options ranging from £0.75bn to over £1bn.
We’ve talked to colleagues in the Liverpool City Region and the Department for Transport about the benefits and opportunities that could be created for future generations. The work that we are doing on the Strand today and in the near future is not the end for us but rather the start of more infrastructure works to support a fantastic waterfront.
Modes of Transport in the Industrial Era
This talk is based on research I’ve undertaken with two colleagues over the past few years and looks at the role of transport in regenerating former port areas. It considers former ports and dockland sites around the world, but here I’ve concentrated on the lessons that Liverpool can draw from the experiences of Salford, Canary Wharf and Copenhagen.
One of the features of industrial era ports such as Liverpool is that they had restricted landside access for passenger transport. Heavy freight movement was largely by rail, and the road network to and from the port was usually quite limited. Apart from passengers, the main demand for personal travel was from dockworkers and it was only in the passenger ferry and ocean liner terminals that there was a requirement for high capacity passenger transport links.
Walking and cycling were very important modes of travel in the industrial era, but they are often forgotten, partly because they are not recorded very well in terms of photographic evidence. But many of the dockers lived locally and walking or cycling to work was the realistic option.
Trams and buses were very important in many ports. For example in Salford route 69 ran from Bridge Street opposite Manchester Cathedral through to Salford Docks until their demise in the 1970s. Liverpool Pier Head was first of all a major tram hub and later a major bus interchange.
The Overhead Railway, unique in Britain in terms of having that type of rail access in the industrial era, was very high frequency with 20 trains an hour in the peak, dropping to six an hour in the off peak. In 1919 it was used by 18 million passengers, and it was also very popular with tourists, with an initiative in the 1930s to reinvigorate it as a tourist attraction.
Car ownership in the industrial era was very low, and for the few people who worked at the docks who did have cars, parking space was very limited.
Modes of Transport in the Post-industrial Era
A clear feature in the mixed-use regeneration of former ports and dock areas, not just in Britain but also around the world, is that investment in new high frequency rail or bus systems not only improves accessibility but also facilitates urban regeneration. It does a number of things: it unlocks what were previously hard to reach former port and dock areas and makes them more accessible; it extends the labour market catchment area, so that people can travel from farther away to these places to work; it can stimulate new inward investment; it can facilitate the reorganisation and relocation of companies and organisations to place themselves in new high impact sites; it can trigger fresh growth; and it can boost a city’s image and facilitate what is called place making1. Royal Albert Dock Liverpool and much of the Waterfront is a classic case of new placemaking underpinning a lot of the investment.
I, and my research assistant Dr Fiona Ferbrache, produced a key research report in June 2014 that was sponsored by UK Tram2,3looking, for example, at the impacts of transport investment in improving access to former port and dockland areas.
Light rail is an important part of this access. London has the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) to Canary Wharf, formerly the West India Dock, but also to the Royal Docks where London City Airport is located. In Salford and Manchester, the Metrolink light rail runs to the Salford Quays and MediaCityUK, and the Copenhagen Metro, which is a light metro system akin to the DLR, runs to the Inner Harbour and will extend to the North Harbour in a couple of years time. In terms of heavy rail, the London Underground Jubilee line was extended to Canary Wharf, so this area of London now has the Tube, the DLR and a third rail-based transport system opening in 2019 with Crossrail that will run there from Heathrow and Reading and central London through to the East End.
The bus connections to Liverpool’s waterfront are frankly quite poor for a major redevelopment area. In comparison, at Salford Quays, a QuaysLink midibus was subsidised by Salford City Council, Transport for Greater Manchester and the University of Salford to Salford Shopping Centre and Salford Crescent Station. Within a year the commercial opportunity was seized by Stagecoach who turned it into a double decker bus route running six times per hour and extended to Manchester’s CBD and southwards to East Didsbury and it’s been running successfully for six years.
Capturing Land Value
Road access was traditionally poor in many of these industrial era ports, so some new road building is essential. But investing major amounts of money in roads is not the way to develop a sustainable and attractive transport facility for these former industrial port areas. The new Limehouse road in Canary Wharf cost £230m for 1.8km but all it does is move the traffic jam a few hundred yards on. From Salford Quays, Broadway and the Quays spine road lead to two different junctions on M602 motorway.
Active transport such as cycling and walking are important and should become more important by investing in cycle hubs, cycle ways and bike share schemes. This has been happening in Canary Wharf and Salford Quays and in Copenhagen’s Inner Harbour.
A point to remember is that if you increase the accessibility of former dock sites, you are actually creating an increase in land value. Potentially, investment in a rail system, for example, to make a site more accessible will increase the value of the land. Some of that value can then be captured to invest in the transport system instead of relying on the public sector, which is so short of funds. To demonstrate what a big change in value the new accessibility can bring, at the end of the industrial era when the docks closed you could barely give the land at the Isle of Dogs away. It was worth about £70,000 an acre. By 1989, once construction had started on the DLR and before it even opened, the land had gone up to £4.9m per acre.
Canary Wharf, Salford Quays and Copenhagen are all examples of how capturing that increasing land value can fund or help to fund that transport investment. At Canary Wharf, private sector developer Olympia & York put in £93m of its own funds to invest in two DLR extensions in order to get customers for all the office towers that they were building. At Salford Quays, £10m was invested from private developers for the Metrolink extension in the 1990s. And in Copenhagen the sale of publicly owned reclaimed land around the Metro stations to developers partly funded its construction.
It can be done if it is properly organised, and the increase in land value can be dramatic. But it’s not done often enough and so many opportunities have been lost to encourage the private sector to invest in transport systems. So if the private sector is willing to dip its hand in its pocket, snap it off.
Canary Wharf and the Royal Docks
High frequency transport was key to unlocking the derelict brownfield sites in the late 1980s and the subsequent increase in land value. The extension to the high frequency Jubilee Underground line through Canary Wharf enhanced that accessibility in the late 1990s and the network of new DLR routes have increased both the catchment area and the capacity of the system.
Canary Wharf is a major, mixed-use, private sector business district with new inward investment with relocated banks, financial services and newspapers from the City of London. It’s the second biggest business district in Britain, and it didn’t exist 40 years ago. It’s bigger than Manchester, Birmingham or Liverpool – only the City of London has more employees in its business district.
The Royal Docks alongside has been converted for London City Airport and mixed-use regeneration.
DLR stations are fairly heavy infrastructure investment for a light railway, but this is because the DLR is up on a viaduct, rather like the Liverpool Overhead Railway. It’s important that the DLR is lifted deliberately onto viaducts because it avoids severing the land beneath in the way that the Strand severs Liverpool from its dockside and riverfront.
Salford Quays and MediaCityUK
Salford Quays near the centre of Greater Manchester is another mixed-use development created from redundant docks at the head of the Manchester Ship Canal from the mid-1980s. The original development in the mid to late 1980s was very low rise and not very commercial. The developers were getting cold feet about whether it would work, and when the 1992 recession came, they talked to Transport for Greater Manchester and the local councils about what could be done to make a step change in the accessibility to Salford Quays. Consequently the Salford Quays Metrolink extension was prioritised and by 1999 the area had been revitalised.
Salford Quays Metrolink extension was not on Transport for Greater Manchester’s original priority list, but the private sector developers put £10m into it and it became the second Metrolink route. It cost £150m, so £10m was not a major amount, but the private sector saw the need to make some contribution. And it worked. As soon as the contract was signed to build it, new office blocks and commercial buildings went up and the rental levels both in terms of residential and commercial climbed and it became successful.
The final phase of Salford Quays is Dock 9, the only dock that wasn’t sold to Salford City Council by the Manchester Ship Canal Company. The other docks within Salford were sold to Salford City Council for £1 because the site was so derelict and polluted that it required a huge amount of investment.
The Manchester Ship Canal Company held on to Dock 9, now owned by the Peel Group who developed the idea for a media city. The BBC became the anchor tenant at MediaCityUK, ITV also moved from central Manchester, and over 40 media companies are now there as is part of the University of Salford4. The BBC required a further extension of the Metrolink before they would agree to move about 40% of its facility from central London and all of its central Manchester facility. North West Regional Development Agency contributed £20m of public money for the Metrolink extension, a new station and four new trams.
MediaCityUK would not have happened without that investment in the transport system. And the importance of having a high frequency service cannot be underestimated. Interviews with BBC staff show that the existing Metrolink frequency of five trams per hour is regarded as insufficient for people who had moved from London5. It’s symptomatic of the thinking that needs to go into what sort of transport you need to make these sorts of places sustainable and attractive.
This post-industrial redevelopment now has a hotel and studios including ITV’s new Coronation Street set that was moved out from the centre of Manchester and been rebuilt on the Trafford Park side of the ship canal. Pedestrian access to/from Salford Quays has been improved with two new footbridges, raisable to allow small ships to pass.
On the north side of the ship canal the Salford Quays Metrolink route runs through to Eccles, as well as the extension into MediaCityUK, and has a series of stations rather than just one, so that within five minutes’ walk of any of these stops you can access the whole of the Salford Quays development.
Copenhagen’s CBD developed near the old docks area in the Inner Harbour, surrounded by the site of medieval fortifications and a series of defensive lakes. This classic harbour had a draft that was too small for ships by the 1960s and 70s. So the North Harbour was built on reclaimed land, some of which became conventional docks at the end of the industrial era, although other parts of it were never used as docks.
Copenhagen revitalised its CBD by building an underground light metro, very similar to the DLR, with three stations serving the Inner Harbour in the core of the CBD6. It is also similar to DLR in being built through Ørestad new town on a viaduct so it doesn’t sever the land. A new ring metro route opens in 2019 and will be extended into the North Harbour, opening in 2020 to facilitate the regeneration of that area as well.
The Copenhagen Metro is very high frequency, and there are also two waterbus routes across the Inner Harbour where you can use the same ticket as on the buses and metro, and new cycling bridges and paths have been built in. Copenhagen is one of the world’s leading cities for cycle use, with 35% of journeys to work by cycle, which is more than by car. Liverpool, with its own waterfront, could take note here.
The Inner Harbour is a mixed-use public and private sector redevelopment with iconic buildings and facilities, including the Royal Danish Opera, the Royal Danish Library, the Danish Dance Theatre, Fisketorvet shopping centre, offices, residential and an outdoor swimming pool which shows how clean the water is today. The new DR Byen (Media City) in Ørestad new town, adjacent to the Inner Harbour, houses the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR), relocated from 11 different sites in the CBD, and part of the University of Copenhagen.
The harbourside regeneration in Copenhagen has been facilitated by transport investment, with the opportunity to organise transport activities more efficiently both in the public and private sector being successfully seized. They are taking it to the next stage at the North Harbour, where a further mixed-use private sector redevelopment will be supported by a metro extension north of the CBD, which opens in 2020. This will have two stations initially and potentially another four, all with high frequency service.
It’s unfortunate that the websites for Royal Albert Dock Liverpool and the cruise liner terminal focus on cars and taxis. But these are the dominant modes of transport at the Waterfront. Bus stops are on the town side of the major Strand Street, which forms one of the biggest barriers you could imagine between a city and its waterfront. Liverpool seriously needs to do something to reduce or eliminate that barrier to make the Waterfront more successful.
Boston in the United States similarly had a freeway built through it in the 1950s, which completely severed the harbour from the city. The Big Dig was a major infrastructure scheme between 1991 and 2007 to replace the surface route with an underground motorway. It was hugely expensive and well over budget, but Boston is fantastic now. It’s pedestrian friendly over the top of the tunnel, the whole of the Italian quarter is now a much more attractive place to be and it has stimulated CBD investment enormously.
Possibly the funds aren’t available for Liverpool to do a Boston-style Big Dig to replace the surface levels, but the plans to narrow the Strand are a good start. This way you release land for cycle ways, but also potentially for a new heritage tramway. A comparison might be San Fransciso’s Embarcadero, where the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) installed a new historic streetcar line along to Fisherman’s Wharf.
These were not purpose-built trams but original heritage trams and streetcars imported from all over the world including Japan and Europe as well as from other American cities. The refurbished trams run on an allocated part of what was a very wide road and are a tremendous tourist draw. Liverpool’s disused tunnels could be a start for something like a heritage tramway.
Building new tunnels is frighteningly expensive but using existing disused tunnels is a cheap and cost effective way of building a modern or even heritage transport system. The Vancouver SkyTrain goes under the CBD in a disused freight tunnel, for example.
Liverpool has an existing underground railway that takes in Lime Street, Central, Moorfields and James Street stations before running under the river to the Wirral. The tunnel passes under the Waterfront before it goes under the river, so building a new station on the Waterfront on the existing line would make it accessible directly by train. A second, less-favourable option would be to make some direct connections to Royal Albert Dock Liverpool, the Pier Head Ferry Terminal and the cruise liner terminal.
James Street Station is the closest to the Waterfront but its access on the town side of the Strand to Water Street is long and labyrinthine. The station is also underused, but much more could be made of that existing rail infrastructure if you opened up a facility on the Waterfront by digging down and building a new station.
There are possibilities to make the Waterfront accessible and attractive, whether by introducing streetcars and/or light rail, reducing that barrier by narrowing Strand Street, and by thinking about reopening and reusing some of the disused tunnels.
The Waterfront was served extremely well by the Overhead Railway and would also have been served extremely well by the abandoned Merseytram scheme. But there is a lot of potential to make it accessible and attractive, not just for local residents but for tourists as well. With the £60m investment into the cruise liner terminal and the Isle of Man ferry terminal, what is needed is a 21st century transport system.
1Ferbrache F. and Knowles R.D. (2017) City boosterism and place making with light rail transit. Geoforum, 80, 103-113
2Knowles R.D. and Ferbrache F. (2014) An Investigation into the Economic Impacts on Cities of Investment in Light Rail Systems. Report for UKTram, Birmingham
3Knowles R.D. and Ferbrache F. (2016) Evaluation of wider economic impacts of light rail investment on cities. Journal of Transport Geography, 54, 430-439
4Knowles R.D. and Binder A. (2017) MediaCityUK: A Sustainable Transit-Oriented Development. Chapter 1, 3-12 In Theakstone W. (ed) Manchester Geographies, Manchester Geographical Society, Manchester
5Binder A. (2018) BBC MediaCityUK: survey into reasons for travel choices. In PhD Thesis, University of Salford, Manchester
6Knowles R.D. (2012) Transit Oriented Development in Copenhagen, Denmark: from the Finger Plan to Ørestad. Journal of Transport Geography, 22(1), 251-261
Since its construction, Albert Dock has benefitted from innovative transport systems to aid the efficient movement of goods and people. The three Interpro presentations ranged across past, present and future modes of transport at the Waterfront and the wider city and showed how these have irrevocably changed. Cars have taken over and we won’t see a man with a red flag advancing along train tracks any more.
But the Strand and Strand Street, once a necessary barrier to protect the docks and now the means by which people access the Waterfront for work and leisure, remain difficult and dangerous. The infrastructure plans aim to create well-designed and safe shared spaces that enhance the experience for all users.
On the Waterfront itself, the new cruise liner terminal, the relocated Isle of Man ferry terminal and a new coach park will all facilitate access and movement, and a series of four bridges between Salthouse Dock and Mann Island will ease pedestrian pressure during Royal Albert Dock Liverpool’s regular festivals and spectacles such as The Giants.
The city centre is expanding to the north, south and east, and new transport infrastructure must be an integral part of the growth. The overarching plan is to create better connections across the whole centre. Whether by introducing new systems or by making better use of what is already there, for example by extending the Merseyrail underground loop line or building a tunnel to take traffic under the Strand, Liverpool’s Waterfront is set to benefit from these wider initiatives.
Transport solutions can be ambitious, imaginative and exciting as well as cost-effective and common sense, as shown by the global comparisons in Professor Knowles’ talk. The ensuing discussion showed that people feel strongly about these issues. The transport systems of the past were part of the physical character of the city, but also supported trade and boosted the economy. Contemporary plans should do the same, it was felt, if future generations are to enjoy a vibrant Waterfront.
Liverpool’s Waterfront, and Royal Albert Dock Liverpool in particular, as the number one tourist destination in the city, needs and deserves a fitting transport system worthy of the largest Grade I listed building complex in the UK and its UNESCO world heritage site status.