In an interview with LBN Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson explains why he is against a proposed £250m new road close to the Port of Liverpool, despite being shadow roads minister. Tony McDonough reports
Labour’s shadow minister for roads, Bill Esterson, has told LBN why he is against the £250m port access road close to the Port of Liverpool.
With Labour’s biggest-ever annual conference now well under way in Liverpool, the Sefton Central MP claims that if the new dual carriageway is built it would lead to unacceptable levels of pollution for people living nearby.
“Putting more HGVs on the roads means you are making air quality worse for the people who live close to the port. What we need to do is look at alternatives,” he explained.
A campaign group, Save Rimrose Valley, was formed after National Highways first unveiled plans for the Port of Liverpool Access Road in 2017. It is designed to alleviate congestion on Dunningsbridge Road.
It would see Rimrose Valley Country Park cut in half by the proposed A5036 Princess Way. However, the scheme has been beset by delays. And in March this year Transport Secretary, Mark Harper further delayed the project.
He moved it into the next period of Road Investment Strategy projects, collectively known as RIS3, to be developed between 2025 and 2030.
However, Save Rimrose Valley campaigners believe they need to keep pushing to try to kill the project once and for all.
With Labour now riding high in the polls there is a strong belief the party will be in Government by the end of 2024. And having Mr Esterson within the Department for Transport makes it a strong possibility the road will not go ahead.
Attending an event organised by Maritime UK and Mersey Maritime, he told LBN: “The port is a fantastic opportunity for the city region and the expansion we have had has really helped with trade.
“But there is a real issue with port access and with the impact it has on local communities. Rimrose Valley cuts across my constituency to Bootle and, although I am shadow minister for roads, I am against this road.
“The Government’s approach from the integrated transport point of view is so so depressing. If you want to help roads then you have to add freight capacity onto the railways. That is what HS2 was always about.
“If you want to make the most of the port, rail and other modes of transport have to play a part.
“Every freight train takes 129 HGVs off the road. If you can look at moving freight around more easily then you help the port and you help the roads. You can’t just keep increasing congestion on the roads indefinitely.”
In August campaigners walked six miles in the rain to the headquarters of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority in Liverpool city centre to highlight their case.
In September, Save Rimrose Valley wrote to Katherine Fairclough, chief executive of Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, for greater transparency on the work of a body called the Port Access Steering Group (PASG). She chairs the group.
National Highways, which is pushing the port road scheme, participates in a sub-group of PASG. Stuart Bennett of Save Rimrose Valley said: “We have long been calling for greater transparency around this group.
“Its workings are critical to us securing a better outcome to the destructive road proposal on offer. Our politicians oppose the road project, but being able to point to viable alternatives is fundamental to this opposition being effective long-term.”