Today my Liberal Democrats colleagues and I have welcomed the Mayor’s short term proposals for cycling and pedestrian improvements but have suggested that the actions are short term and need to be conducted against a wide spread review of the City’s transport needs.
We believe that the Mayor’s cycling and pedestrian plans are welcome but incoherent and inconsistent. In practice he is making minor alterations to proposals which need radical change in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the short term he can use some of the £2 billion that the Government announced last week to deal with temporary pressures on public transport which will be caused when people return to work and schools some time later this year.
In the long term, however, he is pursuing schemes which will have the opposite effect of the schemes he has announced today. The City Centre proposals for the Strand and Lime Street will make bus use more difficult but there seems to be no suggestion of a major review of these schemes.
The Riverside Drive project will encourage more cars on to the roads and will cause major traffic problems in the Aigburth and Mossley Hill areas. If the Mayor wants to be radical he needs to be looking at these big schemes and scrap them to use any available money more effectively elsewhere.
The City needs to be looking at a comprehensive review of the way it works in light of changes to work, leisure and education practices forced upon us by Covid-19 but now welcomed by many. More people will want to work from home. Some businesses will stagger their work times or make them more flexible to make a reduction in morning and afternoon ‘rush hours’. More people will want to cycle both for school, work and leisure purposes and in many cases will want to do this as a family.
That is why Liverpool Liberal Democrats have suggested sweeping changes in transport which are more in keeping with the times than the timid proposals from the Mayor. We have had no response from the Mayor for any of the suggestions that we have made but are pleased that he has privately taken note and begun to introduce some of them anyway!
It’s not only transport that needs to be looked at. Not only will there be changes in the way we ‘work, rest and play’ but there will be changes in the way we go on holiday and the way we decide to spend our leisure time. Retail will change massively not only because we have become hugely more accustomed to home deliveries that we were 2 months ago but also because we are likely to want to buy less ‘stuff’. Surveys show that we will want to buy less products but spend more on experiences. When we do buy it is likely that there will be a shift towards more quality.
We have continually argued that the Council needs to establish a ‘Commission’ or ‘Task Force’ to bring together the best brains from the Council; Universities; private sector and communities to chart out a return to a strong new ‘normal’. We have had no response to those calls but instead understand that three consultancies have been employed to prepare reports but we have no idea what these reports are looking at or where they will go.
Liverpool has a choice. Adapt quickly, work as a City to provide a new rationale for our economy and all that goes with it. Dither and dawdle and we will be bypassed for new opportunities and finance just as we have been for the past decade.
The Liberal Democrat priorities for the City’s transport plans need to be taken up quickly by any review commissioned by the Council
Helping people to walk more. Too many of our citizens are unable to walk through their local neighbourhoods for shopping and recreation purposes because of poor quality pavements; failure to introduce stepped Kerbs at crossing points and insufficient pedestrian controlled crossing as the council has sought to speed up traffic on main roads.
- Helping people to cycle more. There has been a huge increase in cycling during the lock down. Families have been out together partly because it is a good form of exercise and partly because they at last feel safe to do so. You announced a £4 million to improve cycling but this appears to be starting very slowly and is nowhere near sufficient to provide a comprehensive network of cycle routes throughout the city.
- Helping people to use the buses and trains more. There needs to be more bus lanes in the City and a comprehensive review of this network needs to take place. Bus lanes lead not only to improved bus times, if designed properly, but also provide a haven for cyclists as well. We also need to reconsider the proposals for movement of buses in the city centre. We should take advantage of the increased numbers of platforms at Lime Street to press for more local trains.
- Helping people to get out of their cars. The above three measures will lead to a reduction in car use but we can do more. All finances of the council and the government are in flux. The government will seek to expand the economy, not through increased revenue spending, but by increased capital spending. They will be looking for ‘shovel ready’ schemes. Three schemes which will be environmentally unsound; the Strand, Lime Street and Riverside Drive, should be reviewed and money saved used instead on pedestrian, cycling and public transport programmes.