Plans for a new road between Switch Island and Princess Way to improve access to the port and bypass the existing A5036 have suffered setbacks due to ongoing ground investigations and the impact of Covid-19.
A statement from Highways England warned that the next round of consultation on the project would be pushed back until next year, from this year, because some of the planning and environmental work required to develop the proposals has been impossible to carry out during the pandemic.
The statement said: “Due to the impact of Covid-19, we have faced some delays on activities we need to carry out to develop the project, including analysing the results of the ground investigation surveys.
“We’ve also postponed a number of environmental surveys as some of these could not be carried out safely while following social distancing rules, or because the results would not provide an accurate reflection of normal conditions.
“We are working to understand the overall impact of the virus on the project schedule, to and develop plans on how we can continue to complete the required activities. It is important that we have accurate data available so we can design the road as effectively as possible.”
It added: “It is uncertain how much longer the pandemic will continue to disrupt progress, but it is clear we’ll be unable to hold our next consultation this year. We understand this will be disappointing to everybody who wants to formally have their say on the proposals, and we wanted to thank you for your patience.
“We are continuing to develop the scheme, and we’ll update stakeholders and share our proposals for the design of the road, along with the findings of the surveys, as soon as we can.
The project aims to ease traffic on the A5036 Dunnings Bridge Road outside Liverpool by building a dual carriageway through Rimrose Valley Country Park.
Surveyors have begun ground investigations at the site, and are currently carrying out regular checks of the boreholes that were installed in Rimrose Valley as part of the investigations that began last year.
The plan is to make monthly checks of the groundwater levels up until this summer, to develop a detailed understanding of the ground conditions in the valley and establish whether it can accommodate large-scale road infrastructure.
According to the plans detailed in 2018, the proposed route is three miles long, cutting through the Rimrose Valley area and linking the Princess Way section of the A5036 to the south and Broom’s Cross Road to the north, with new junctions, bridges and footbridges.
It also includes an upgrade to a dual carriageway on Broom’s Cross Road between the new bypass and the Switch Island Interchange, and de-trunking of the existing A5036 between the Switch Island Interchange and the Princess Way section of the A5036. The scheme is intended to take freight away from residential areas on the congested A5036.
The road is likely to become more urgently needed if the Liverpool City Region’s bid for the Port of Liverpool and surrounding areas to win freeport status, submitted to the Government this month.
The proposal aims to boost local economic development by expanding the port and local service areas and bringing forward several sites for commercial development. However, improved access links and plans to reduce road freight in the area are also set out in the bid.
The first UK freeports are expected to be announced and created this year.