Liverpool City Council transport bosses will reconvene next week to hammer out a way forward after opposition grew against plans to alter bus routes in Lime Street, a key part of its £47m connectivity masterplan.
A further meeting of the council’s highways and public spaces committee will take place on 15 April to discuss options for a way forward, after the committee’s meeting on 1 April failed to resolve the matter.
According to plans developed since initial consultation in late 2018, bus movements in the area were to be changed as part of a highways remodelling programme that formed a key plank of the £47m City Centre Connectivity programme.
Under the plans, approved by Liverpool’s Cabinet in January 2020, the stretch between Elliot Street and St George’s Place would be closed to buses, with only cars accessing the St John’s car park able to use the highway.
This move was intended to enhance connectivity for pedestrians and active travellers around Lime Street, also enhancing the “arrival” vista with a swathe of paved public space, while also promoting the St George’s plateau as an event space.
However, critics of the project regard it as impractical, and hugely problematic for bus users. The meeting in December of the transport committee approved of most of the Lime Street programme, but a decision on the road closure between Eliot Street and St George’s Place was deferred, with further traffic modelling requested.
In all, 14 ward councillors and an MP have all put forward the view that the scheme as proposed would “sever” Lime Street; further objections have now been lodged adding to this list.
Five options were put forward for last week’s meeting, offering a variety of workaround solutions including rerouting cycle lanes, introducing signalling at improved crossing points, one-way bus travel, the loss of much of the new paved areas in front of the station, and the loss of trees from the original proposal.
Each option is costed for design and construction, coming in generally at £30,000 to £60,000 for the former and £150,000 to £350,000 for the latter, depending on the size of the intervention. Only one option is considered viable: that which will allow for northbound buses only.
Changing the scheme will inevitably lead to cost over-runs, the report warned: “The late nature of these objections, when works were programmed to start on site means that the time taken to do any redesign work associated with allowing bus movements between Elliot Street and St Georges Place will result in delay to site works. This delay will lead to financial penalties payable to the contractor.”
Any change at this point is expected to add three months to the programme, on top of those additional costs already noted.
Cllr Laura Robertson-Collins tweeted yesterday: “Good news that this is being looked at again. Prioritising public transport and active travel are essential to reduce carbon and improve air quality in Liverpool,” while Cllr Nick Small offered the view that “the Lime Street proposal is a good one but could be made better by ensuring bus access between Lime Street and Queen Square”.