Is Liverpool really poorer than Manchester? It depends how you count

The Mersey Gateway Bridge, which links Runcorn to Widnes. Image: Getty.

Back in September 2017 I compared some statistics for Liverpool and Leeds – after first resizing Liverpool to give it the same physical area as Leeds, so as to make for a fairer comparison. Using my chosen metrics, Liverpool won out fairly substantially.

This exercise was quite popular, and yielded interesting results, so I have decided to revisit the theme this month. This time I have chosen to focus on three different versions of Liverpool. I’ve also included statistics for Greater Manchester, as a reference point.

Here are the three versions of Liverpool I’ve chosen, ranked in my preferred order:

1. The true metropolitan area which I’ll call “Greater Liverpool”, which I defined and described here. That consists of nine English local authority areas (Cheshire West and Chester, Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton, Warrington, West Lancashire, Wirral), plus two in north Wales (Flintshire and Wrexham). 

2. The stunted official Liverpool City Region. That consists of just six of the English local authority areas: Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral;  

3. And, purely for completeness, the City of Liverpool single local authority area. This, while being the core component, is not the whole story as far as economic discussion is concerned. 

My own view is that the Greater Liverpool metropolitan area represents the true independent functional economic area around here. On this point I concur with this seminal 2011 report titled ”Rebalancing Britain: Policy or slogan? Liverpool City Region – Building on its Strengths”, written by Lord Heseltine and Sir Terry Leahy. All of the statistics referenced in this article were sourced directly from the Office for National Statistics.

So, what do the statistics show for the first three versions of Liverpool, mentioned above? To give these numbers some context I’ve also included the figures for Greater Manchester – that is, the 10 English local authority areas of Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan.

As can be seen, when Greater Manchester is compared to the Greater Liverpool metropolitan area, their economic performance is very similar. Indeed, the truly remarkable discovery from this exercise is that the GVA per head of Greater Liverpool and the GVA per head of Greater Manchester came out exactly the same, at £21,626.

Incidentally, if a combined road and railway crossing was built across the River Dee between the Wirral peninsula and North Wales, as shown on the map above, it would, for example, bring Rhyl to within a half hour journey time of Liverpool city centre. It’d also be likely to have a very positive impact on the Denbighshire and Conwy local authority areas’ economies, by bringing them directly into the Greater Liverpool metropolis. 

The map shows two potential locations for a River Dee crossing. Option A, between West Kirby and Talacre, is about eight miles in total; and option B, between Heswall and Holywell, is about 10 miles in total. Both options connect to the M53 and into the existing eight lanes of road tunnels; and to the Liverpool Underground railway tunnel, under the River Mersey directly into Liverpool city centre.

While we’re at it, the River Dee is one of eight sites that have been identified as optimum for a tidal barrage in the UK. Here’s a video of one at work in France: 

 

Such a development would also complement the proposed Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project in South Wales

To take account of such a development, I’ve also calculated the numbers for a greater, Greater Liverpool  which includes the Denbighshire and Conwy local authority areas. That increases the GVA and population substantially, whilst reducing the GVA per head figure:

 

One last thing. If, because of a national border, only the nine local English local authority areas’ statistics had been included in the Greater Liverpool figures, then Greater Liverpool’s GVA per head for 2015 would have increased to £21,667. That’s actually higher than Greater Manchester’s £21,626. Would that have made the headlines, do you think?

Dave Mail is CityMetric’s Liverpool City Region correspondent. He will be updating us on the brave new world of Liverpool City Region, mostly monthly, in ‘E-mail from Liverpool City Region’ and he is on twitter @davemail2017.


 

 
 
 
 

Cycling on London’s Euston Road is still a terrifying experience

Cyclists on the Euston Road. Image: Jonn Elledge.

The New Road, which skirted the northern boundaries of London’s built up area, first opened in the 1750s. Originally, it was intended to link up outlying villages and provide a route to drive sheep and cows to the meat market at Smithfield without having to pass through the congested city centre. 

As with bypasses and ring roads the world over, however, it increasingly became congested in its own right. Today, you won’t often find livestock on the route, which is now Marylebone, Euston and City roads. But you will find up to six lanes of often stationary buses, cabs, and private vehicles. In a city whose centre is largely free of multi-lane highways, London’s northern ring road has long been the sort of abomination that you avoid at all costs.

But now, somewhat surprisingly, the road is seeing yet another new use. Earlier this week, the first phase of a temporary cycle lane opened on the Euston Road, the middle section of the route which runs for roughly a mile. As London rethinks roads throughout the city, this addition to the cycling map falls solidly into the category of streets that didn't seem like candidates for cycling before the pandemic.

It is, to be clear, temporary. That’s true of many of the Covid-led interventions that Transport for London is currently making, though those in the know will often quietly admit to hoping they end up being permanent. In this case, however, the agency genuinely seems to mean it: TfL emphasized in its press release that the road space is already being allocated for construction starting late next year and that "TfL will work with local boroughs to develop alternate routes along side streets" when the cycle lane is removed.

At lunchtime on Friday, I decided to try the lane for myself to understand what an unlikely, temporary cycle lane can accomplish. In this case it's clear that the presence of a lane only accomplishes so much. A few key things will still leave riders wanting:

It’s one way only. To be specific, eastbound. I found this out the hard way, after attempting to cycle the Euston Road westbound, under the naive impression that there was now a lane for me in which to do this. Neither I nor the traffic I unexpectedly found myself sharing space with enjoyed the experience. To be fair, London’s cycling commissioner Will Norman had shared this information on Twitter, but cyclists might find themselves inadvertently mixing with multiple lanes of much, much bigger vehicles.

It radically changes in width. At times the westbound route, which is separated from the motor traffic by upright posts, is perhaps a metre and a half wide. At others, such as immediately outside Euston station, it’s shared with buses and is suddenly four or five times that. This is slightly vexing.

It’s extremely short. The publicity for the new lane said it would connect up with other cycle routes on Hampstead Road and Judd Street (where Cycleway 6, the main north-south crosstown route, meets Euston Road). That’s a distance of roughly 925m. It actually runs from Gower Street to Ossulton Street, a distance of barely 670m. Not only does the reduced length mean it doesn’t quite connect to the rest of the network, it also means that the segregated space suddenly stops:

The junction between Euston Road and Ousslston Street, where the segregated lane suddenly, unexpectedly stops. Image: Jonn Elledge.

 

It’s for these reasons, perhaps, that the new lane is not yet seeing many users. Each time I cycled the length of it I saw only a handful of other cyclists (although that did include a man cycling with a child on a seat behind him – not something one would have expected on the Euston Road of the past).


Though I hesitate to mention this because it feeds into the car lobby’s agenda, it was also striking that the westbound traffic – the side of the road which had lost a lane to bikes – was significantly more congested than the eastbound. If the lane is extended, it could, counterintuitively, help, by removing the unexpected pinch points at which three lanes of cars suddenly have to squeeze into two.

There’s a distinctly unfinished air to the project – though, to be fair, it’s early days. The eastbound lane needs to be created from scratch; the westbound extended. At that point, it would hopefully be something TfL would be keen enough to talk about that cyclists start using it in greater numbers – and drivers get the message they should avoid the Euston Road.

The obvious explanation for why TfL is going to all this trouble is that TfL is in charge of the Euston Road, and so can do what it likes there. Building cycle lanes on side nearby roads means working with the boroughs, and that’s inevitably more difficult and time consuming.

But if the long-term plan is to push cyclists via side roads anyway, it’s questionable whether all this disruption is worth it. A segregated cycle lane that stops without warning and leaves you fighting for space with three lanes of buses, lorries, and cabs is a cycle lane that’s of no use at all.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.