The Liverpool City Region needs better transport before clean energy

Burbo Bank. Image: Getty.

It is three months since Steve Rotheram swept to power as mayor of the Liverpool City Region. So how are things shaping up for this largely untested ex-bricklayer (he never seems to tire of reminding us of this previous job)?

On 17 May, Rotheram spoke at the official opening ceremony, in Liverpool, of the very impressive Burbo Bank extension in Liverpool Bay, a new offshore wind farm capable of producing enough electricity to power over 230,000 homes.

Apparently, one revolution of a set of the gigantic blades produces enough power to meet the needs of one household for 29 hours. It is the first offshore wind farm in the world to make commercial use of the MHI Vestas V164-8.0 MW wind turbines. Each set of turbine blades is larger than the London Eye, and just one of these wind turbines produces more energy than the whole of Vindeby, the world’s first offshore wind farm constructed by DONG Energy 25 years ago in Denmark.

Speaking at the event, Rotheram said:

“The offshore wind industry has a huge contribution to make to the growing UK-based supply chain, and utilising our renewable energy sources is vital to ensuring the Liverpool City Region cements its position as a low carbon leader.”

On 6 June, he Rotheram announced, at an investment conference in Milton Keynes, that his grand vision, and a top priority for his mayoralty of the Liverpool City Region, is to build a £3.5bn tidal barrage across the River Mersey. 

On that occasion, he said:

“This would be a significant leap in achieving my ambition to be a carbon neutral city region by 2040. Bringing forward a new business and logistical plan for a Mersey Tidal Barrage will be one of the major priorities of my Mayoral administration.”

There seems to be a pattern developing here, of noble and monumental long term green projects of fabulous ambition. The thing is though, in June 2011, a feasibility report, titled ‘Mersey Tidal Power‘ , found that such a barrage project would not be not feasible and shelved it. What’s more, would it be called the ‘Rotheram Barrage’? Which could be confusing, despite the different spelling, as it would be located in the Liverpool City Region and not Yorkshire, where Rotherham is? Has this been thought through properly?

It is not as though there aren’t many other, more mundane projects, more beneficial to the present everyday lives of Liverpolitans that Rotheram could focus upon. For example, it has recently often been reported in the local press that Liverpool city centre is in dire need of a large amount of new Grade A office space as our existing stock is almost full.

This would likely be a much better project for providing very large numbers of well paid, long term jobs. So pump-priming this market, as other cities have done, would likely be a much more cost effective way of creating economic growth and jobs, in a relatively short timescale, for the whole Liverpool City Region and beyond.  

What’s more, the Liverpool Underground needs expanding - firstly by re-opening existing stations and new stations on the existing extensive network, but also by extending the network by, for example, completing the strategically important 19 miles long Outer Loop Line, which requires just eight more miles of track to be laid on the already largely completed trackbed. This alone would deliver full and convenient access to the Liverpool Underground for many tens of thousands of additional citizens who currently don’t have it. 

The Outer Loop, as proposed in the 1970s. Image: Merseytravel, via John Burns.

These investments would be much lower cost and quicker to deliver than the grand monument that mayor Rotheram appears to be dreaming of, and would definitely be more beneficial to the everyday lives of Liverpolitans.

Let’s face it, we all already have a stable electricity supply around here. But far from all of us can board a gleaming, brand new, state-of-the-art Liverpool Underground train at the end of our street, to travel in an environmentally friendly way to Liverpool city centre very quickly and efficiently, to our well paid jobs in gleaming new Grade A office towers – something which would be of much more immediate benefit to people of my ilk, within our lifetimes. 

Don’t get me wrong, feasible long term green energy projects are a fine ambition and should be pursued for the long term good of us all. But I would suggest that for our local population, in the short term, they should not be our main priority at the expense of other, more immediate and obvious needs.

It is also worth remembering that someone like me travelling a few miles to work in Liverpool city centre on the Liverpool Underground is much greener than travelling 25 miles by car to work elsewhere. 

Come on Mayor Rotheram, we need stuff for the here and now, or at least for the here and very soon. As someone once said: “it’s the economy, stupid”.

One last thing. Did you know that the public school educated, ex-solicitor and Liverpolitan Jake Berry is the current Northern Powerhouse Minister? So, as mentioned in May, which “one of us” – to quote Mayor Rotheram’s election slogan – is now the most politically influential and able, through the real tools at their disposal and, indeed, their brain power, to positively impact Liverpool City Region’s economy? Is it the ex-bricklayer or the ex-solicitor? 

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric’s 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’.


Where actually is South London?

TFW Stephen Bush tells you that Chelsea is a South London team. Image: Getty.

To the casual observer, this may not seem like a particularly contentious question: isn’t it just everything ‘under’ the Thames when you look at the map? But despite this, some people will insist that places like Fulham, clearly north of the river, are in South London. Why?

Here are nine ways of defining South London.

The Thames

Image: Google Maps/CityMetric.

It’s a curvy river, the Thames. Hampton Court Palace, which is on the north bank of the river, is miles south of the London Eye, on the south bank. If the river forms a hard border between North and South Londons, then logically sometimes North London is going to be south of South London, which is, to be fair, confusing. But how else could we do it?


You could just draw a horizontal line across a central point (say, Charing Cross, where the road distances are measured from). While this solves the London Eye/Hampton Court problem, this puts Thamesmead in North London, and Shepherd’s Bush in South London, which doesn’t seem right either.

Image: Google Maps/CityMetric.

And if you tried to use longitude to define West and East London on top of this, nothing would ever make sense ever again.

The Post Office

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Some people give the Post Office the deciding vote, arguing that North and South London are defined by their postcodes. This does have some advantages, such as removing many contentious areas from the debate because they’re either in the West, East or Central postcode divisions, or ignoring Croydon.

But six of the SW postcodes are north of the river Thames, so we’re back to saying places like Fulham and Chelsea are in south London. Which is apparently fine with some people, but are we also going to concede that Big Ben and Buckingham Palace are South London landmarks?

Taken to the extreme this argument denies that South London exists at all. The South postcode region was abolished in 1868, to be merged into the SE and SW regions. The S postcode area is now Sheffield. So is Sheffield in South London, postcode truthers? Is that what you want?

Transport for London

Image: TfL.

At first glance TfL might not appear to have anything to add to the debate. The transport zones are about distance from the centre rather than compass point. And the Northern Line runs all the way through both North and South London, so maybe they’re just confused about the entire concept of directions.


Image: TfL.

But their website does provide bus maps that divide the city into 5 regions: North East, South East, South West, North West and the Centre. Although this unusual approach is roughly speaking achieved by drawing lines across and down the middle, then a box around the central London, there are some inconsistencies. Parts of Fulham are called for the South West region, yet the whole of the Isle of Dogs is now in North East London? Sick. It’s sick.

The Boundary Commission

One group of people who ought to know a thing or two about boundaries is the Boundary Commission for England. When coming up with proposals for reforming parliamentary constituencies in 2011, it first had to define ‘sub-regions’ for London.

Initially it suggested three – South, North East, and a combined North, West and Central region, which included Richmond (controversial!) – before merging the latter two into ‘North’ and shifting Richmond back to the South.

In the most recent proposal the regions have reverted to North Thames and South Thames (splitting Richmond), landing us right back where we started. Thanks a bunch, boundary commission.

The London Plan

Image: Greater London Authority.

What does the Mayor of London have to say? His office issues a London Plan, which divides London into five parts. Currently ‘South’ includes only Bromley, Croydon, Kingston upon Thames, Merton, Sutton, and Wandsworth, while the ‘North’ consists of just Barnet, Enfield, and Haringey. Everywhere else is divvied into East, South or Central.

While this minimalist approach does have the appeal of satisfying no-one, given the scheme has been completely revised twice since 2004 it does carry the risk of seismic upheaval. What if Sadiq gets drunk on power and declares that Islington is in East London? What then?



Image: Wikimedia Commons/CityMetric.

The coordinates listed on the South London article lead to Brockwell Park near Herne Hill, while the coordinates on the North London article lead to a garden centre near Redbridge. I don’t know what this means, so I tried to ring the garden centre to see if they had any advice on the matter. It was closed.

Pevsner Guides

Image: Wikimedia Commons/CityMetric.

Art historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner might seem an unlikely source of help at this juncture, but we’ve tried everything else. And the series of architectural guides that he edited, The Buildings of England, originally included 2 volumes for London: “The Cities of London and Westminster”, and “everything else”. Which is useless.

But as his successors have revised his work, London has expanded to fill 6 volumes: North, North West, East, The City, Westminster, and South. South, quite sensibly, includes every borough south of the Thames, and any borough that is partly south of the Thames (i.e. Richmond). And as a bonus: West London no longer exists.


I rang a McDonald’s in Fulham and asked if they were in South London. They said no.

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