“Batman and Robin”: Could Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham been the superheroes the north west needs?

Just a couple of normal guys plotting to save the world. Image: Getty.

What has Liverpool City Region mayor Steven Rotheram been up to so far? Well, on his first day he made a joke about Kenny Dalglish and invited Theresa May to visit the region for chips.

Rumour has it that Rotheram and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham are best mates. How so, I hear you ask? Well, they are both Liverpolitans for a start, both Labour Party members and both football fans – albeit, one supports Liverpool and the other Everton. On a more serious note, they were brothers in arms in their quest to expose the shocking miscarriage of justice that followed the Hillsborough tragedy.

The two mayors seem to be acting as a tag-team. One of their first major initiatives was to cleverly cement a rebrand of HS3 to "Crossrail for the North", inviting direct comparisons with Greater London's Crossrail 2. They also demanded that Crossrail for the North be prioritised, linking Liverpool to Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds via a new high speed railway.

It’s interesting, then, that the recent Tory manifesto specifically referenced “Northern Powerhouse Rail” (yet another name for it), but did not mention Crossrail 2. Sadly, though, it did not make it into the Queen's Speech. 

In other words, it appears that the Liverpolitans are organising. And our new super heroes Burnham and Rotheram (Batman and Robin, anyone?) are preparing to battle on behalf of Gotham (centred on Liverpool City Region, obviously), with their old adversaries the Tories.

Mayor Rotheram has also given his full backing to Liverpool's bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. In March this honour was removed from Durban, in South Africa, because the city did not meeting the criteria to host the games. An emergency replacement has since been sought, with Liverpool and Birmingham now appearing on our country's official shortlist of suitable candidates. Here is Liverpool's bid logo: 

The Liverpool City Region has a rich sporting heritage, which is second to none. Later this month, the Open Golf Championship will return to the region’s Royal Birkdale; it was last held here as recently as 2014, at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club on the Wirral peninsula.

We also host, amongst many other things: the internationally popular Grand National, known as the world's greatest steeplechase; two world class football clubs in Everton and Liverpool; world class Rugby League in St Helens and Widnes; and, the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, this year and next. We even hosted Formula 1 Grand Prix in the days of Stirling Moss and Fangio, pictured here.

Image: Getty.

I would like to see our Commonwealth Games offer having a strong focus on Liverpool City Region's over 80 miles of coastline, much of it golden beaches, to showcase one of the region’s most impressive but most overlooked attributes.

Here is an example of one of our many beaches. It shows Antony Gormley's ‘Another Place’, a poignant modern art installation celebrating migration at Crosby beach, just four miles and six stops on the Liverpool Underground from Liverpool city centre. The photo looks towards Liverpool Bay, with Wales in the background:

Image: Chris Howells/Wikimedia Commons.

 

Imagine a Beach Volleyball tournament being staged amidst such a fabulous modern art installation, and with the monumental Port of Liverpool cranes immediately adjacent. We could take full advantage of our natural assets to host other sports, too: canoeing; road cycling; mountain bike cycling; open water swimming; rowing;sailing; and triathlon, a sport which Liverpool already has a strong history of hosting.

We already have a lot of different venues for a lot of different, and with more to come: a new Everton stadium, designed by American architect Dan Meis, is planned for Bramley Moore Dock in Liverpool's epic UNESCO World Heritage Site docklands. Throw in the fact that Liverpool is actually more centrally located within the UK than Birmingham, and everything is falling nicely into place for us.


However, a significant fly in the ointment may be that the West Midlands, whatever that is (apparently it includes Birmingham), has just elected a Tory metro mayor...

Incidentally, does a UK government partnership between the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party mean that austerity will now end in Northern Ireland, but will continue in the Liverpool City Region? Conveniently, Liverpool City Region and Northern Ireland have similarly sized populations, so it would be interesting if someone with the appropriate skills could monitor and compare any central government largesse between the two regions. I was shocked to read that the Northern Ireland Renewable Heat Incentive scandal could cost UK taxpayers £400m.

One last thing. The new Alstom train modernisation facility, which is the largest in the UK, opened in Widnes, in the Liverpool City Region’s own Halton, on 29 June. Just to keep the train fans interested.

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric's new Liverpool City Region correspondent. He will be updating us on the brave new world of Liverpool City Region every month in “E-mail from Liverpool City Region”.

 
 
 
 

Barnet council has decided a name for its new mainline station. Exciting!

Artist's impression of the new Brent Cross. Image: Hammerson.

I’ve ranted before about the horror of naming stations after the lines that they’re served by (screw you, City Thameslink). So, keeping things in perspective as ever, I’ve been quietly dreading the opening of the proposed new station in north London which has been going by the name of Brent Cross Thameslink.

I’ve been cheered, then, by the news that station wouldn’t be called that at all, but will instead go by the much better name Brent Cross West. It’s hardly the cancellation of Brexit, I’ll grant, but in 2017 I’ll take my relief wherever I can find it.

Some background on this. When the Brent Cross shopping centre opened besides the A406 North Circular Road in 1976, it was only the third large shopping mall to arrive in Britain, and the first in London. (The Elephant & Castle one was earlier, but smaller.) Four decades later, though, it’s decidedly titchy compared to newer, shinier malls such as those thrown up by Westfield – so for some years now, its owners, Hammerson, have wanted to extend the place.

That, through the vagaries of the planning process, got folded into a much bigger regeneration scheme, known as Brent Cross Cricklewood (because, basically, it extends that far). A new bigger shopping centre will be connected, via a green bridge over the A406, to another site to the south. There you’ll find a whole new town centre, 200 more shops, four parks, 4m square feet of offices space and 7,500 homes.

This is all obviously tremendously exciting, if you’re into shops and homes and offices and not into depressing, car-based industrial wastelands, which is what the area largely consists of at the moment.

The Brent Cross site. Image: Google.

One element of the new development is the new station, which’ll sit between Hendon and Cricklewood on the Thameslink route. New stations are almost as exciting as new shops/homes/offices, so on balance I'm pro.

What I’ve not been pro is the name. For a long time, the proposed station has been colloquially referred to as Brent Cross Thameslink, which annoys me for two reasons:

1) Route names make rubbish modifiers because what if the route name changes? And:

2) It’s confusing, because it’s nearly a mile from Brent Cross tube station. West Hampstead Thameslink (euch), by contrast, is right next to West Hampstead tube.

Various other names have been proposed for the station. In one newsletter, it was Brent Cross Parkway; on Wikipedia, it’s currently Brent Cross South, apparently through confusion about the name of the new town centre development.

This week, though, Barnet council quietly confirmed it’d be Brent Cross West:

Whilst the marketing and branding of BXS needs to be developed further, all parties agree that the station name should build upon the Brent Cross identity already established. Given the station is located to the west of Brent Cross, it is considered that the station should be named Brent Cross West. Network Rail have confirmed that this name is acceptable for operational purposes. Consequently, the Committee is asked to approve that the new station be named Brent Cross West.

Where the new station will appear on the map, marked by a silly red arrow. Image: TfL.

That will introduce another irritating anomaly to the map, giving the impression that the existing Brent Cross station is somehow more central than the new one, when in fact they’re either side of the development. And so:

Consideration has also been given as to whether to pursue a name change for the tube station from “Brent Cross” to “Brent Cross East”.

Which would sort of make sense, wouldn’t it? But alas:

However owing to the very high cost of changing maps and signage London-wide this is not currently being pursued.

This is probably for the best. Only a handful of tube stations have been renamed since 1950: the last was Shepherd’s Bush Market, which was until 2008 was simply Shepherd's Bush, despite being quite a long way from the Shepherd's Bush station on the Central line. That, to me, suggests that one of the two Bethnal Green stations might be a more plausible candidate for an early rename.


At any rate: it seems unlikely that TfL will be renaming its Brent Cross station to encourage more people to use the new national rail one any time soon. But at least it won’t be Brent Cross Thameslink.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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