A new £1.5m investment pushes forward a plan that could see trains stopping in the Baltic Triangle area of Liverpool for the first time since 1917. Tony McDonough reports
A plan to allow Merseyrail trains to stop in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle for the first time in more than a century is moving a step closer to reality.
Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has pledged to build a new station on the site of the former St James station, which closed in 1917. Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is now investing £1.5m to take forward the next stage of the scheme.
In October senior Liverpool councillors approved a new masterplan for the ongoing development of the Baltic district, just south of the city centre. Little more than a decade ago it was a largely derelict area of abandoned docklands warehouses.
But, thanks to pioneers such as Baltic Triangle CIC and Elevator Studios, the area has been transformed into one of the fastest-growing hubs for the digital and creative sector in the UK. It now home to more than 500 businesses, employing around 3,000 people.
This has also led to a number of new bars and restaurants opening up in the district, which has also become increasingly popular with residential developers. Legacie Developments is currently building 500 apartments at its Parliament Square scheme.
All of the above has created a compelling case for the Baltic area to have its own train station, which would sit on the Merseyrail Hunts Cross to Southport line which runs through the city centre. With the Combined Authority investing £450m in a new train fleet for Merseyrail, Mr Rotheram is keen for the Merseyrail network to be extended. The new St James station would be located close to the former Cains Brewery.
Those proposals is now a step closer thanks to two new developments – an agreement with Network Rail, worth £1.2m, to start the next stage of the design process, and the purchase of a plot of land adjacent to the railway cutting off Stanhope Street for £300,000. This will protect a potential future site for the new station ticket office building.
Funding for the land purchase and the next design stage has come from the £175m Transforming Cities Fund which was announced at the September Combined Authority meeting. An additional application for funding has also been made for the station in the latest round of New Stations Fund.
The station also forms part of the Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy, a 30-year plan, which was updated in 2018. Mr Rotheram said: “I’m working to deliver a London-style transport system across the city region that is quick, affordable and easy to use, as well as expanding our network so our communities can be better connected.
“The Baltic Triangle has undergone a radical transformation over the past decade and has become a fantastic place for people to live, work and enjoy themselves. While Coronavirus continues to have a huge impact on everyday life, I am determined to keep investing in our region’s economic recovery and I remain ambitious for our future.
Andy Heath, managing director at Merseyrail, added: “These latest steps towards re-opening St James station are incredibly promising and fantastic news for those who work in, live in and visit this increasingly vibrant part of the city.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a very uncertain time for everyone, but I am pleased that, working with our partners, we are making positive steps towards providing a reliable and efficient rail service for everyone across the Liverpool city region.”