Overhed Michael McDonough
Indicative image of how an overhead railway could look by Michael McDonough

MIPIM UK | Rotheram explores Merseyside monorail

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Willmott Dixon Logo MainMIPIM UK coverage is brought to you in association with Willmott Dixon

Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has revealed he and the Liverpool City Region leaders are considering the potential for an overhead railway to return to the city’s waterfront.

Known as the Dockers’ Umbrella, the light railway operated from the 1890s to the 1950s when it was deemed too expensive to repair and was demolished.

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Rotheram let slip during a MIPIM UK panel discussion that a “thought piece” was under way, which was considering the potential of a monorail to be built along the waterfront.

Rotheram said: “We’re speaking to the six City Region authority leaders to perhaps think about Dockers’ Umbrella- type connectivity, between the city centre and airport, with a monorail.”

While Rotheram was quick to stress that the monorail was currently “a concept only”, the proposal has subsequently been referenced repeatedly by the Metro Mayor over the course of MIPIM UK, and has been popular with the wider Liverpool delegation.

The demolition of the overhead railway sparked outcry in the 50s, and since then plans to revive the line have repeatedly been ssuggested by members of the public. Rotheram’s “concept” echos that of urban designer Michael McDonough, who in 2017 released CGIs of how the rebuilt train line could look and suggested a map of the route which would run from the city centre to the airport.

Speaking to Place North West, Rotheram said: “The monorail idea has been around for some time. We need to explore transformational projects for Liverpool’s future, and look outside the box for transport solutions and concepts.

“There have been concerns in the past about the Mersey riverbed, about the impact of churning it up and the pollution issues, which of course we don’t want to do. However due to massive engineering projects such as the Mersey Gateway, Liverpool 2, and the upcoming Cruise Liner terminal, we know a lot more about the ecology and what is possible.

“So now we think, maybe, there could be potential for an iconic structure across the waterfront.”

Rotheram has been pushing several major infrastructure projects into the concept stage since he took over as Metro Mayor in 2017. Plans around a potential River Mersey tidal barrage have been progressing, with former Dong Energy chairman Brent Cheshire appointed at the end of last year to lead the creation of a business case.

“I believe the tidal barrage and this opportunity to harness the power of the River Mersey absolutely will materialise, we’re going to see it in the next decade,” Rotheram said. “It’s going to be hugely beneficial for the creation of clean energy – we don’t have to smash up the ground in order to get fuel.

“Work is well under way, the Combined Authority has agreed to fund the second stage which is the creation of a skeletal business case, and a considered report will be going to the Government outlining how it could work.”

  • Place North West and Willmott Dixon are exhibiting at MIPIM UK at Stand J10

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Bold and impressive. Cost… deliverability… and at a time of penny pinching. Perhaps more deliverable is to incorporate an airport rail connection with both the airport’s proposed eastern link road and the potential urban extensions east of Speke – an eastern rail loop with the eastern link as such – and tie in with the existing rail line between Hunts Cross and Runcorn. I would love to see the Dockland Light Railway come back but I think financial reality and nostalgia differ enormously.

By Merseysider

The idea of this looks and sounds great but i would advise them to watch the Monorail episode of the Simpsons…..

By Glenn

Marvellous idea, but really where is the money coming from? I think the metro mayor should be focusing on projects that are half realistic.

By Bday

The heritage brigade will surely object to something modern, new and thingamajig?
“What we don’t want that around here?”, Oh what about the first passenger train services, the first Electric Overhead railway services, what about the Dock railway along the strand and beyond,? “Yeah, but we like to keep them scousers down with our objections and keep the view, which we only see once every 10 years or so”
I really hope this can become a reality for the great connectivity this would provide, oh no! I hear the quill pens being inked ready for objections, I really hope not and a great vision for the region.

By Seat by the Window

It’s more a Shelbyville idea

By Nordyne

Ambitious and very modern – like it!

By Ron

I’d say this vessel could do at least Warp 5

By Leonard Nimoy

Is this a joke? such a ridiculously unnecessary waste of funds. What’s needed is vital train links as mentioned below to the airport, to the northern docklands etc

By jh

A Rail Link to the Airport is more realistic, both financially and in drawing in passengers from not only the local area but from all over the North and Midlands. Extend the Northern Line onto the West Coast Main Line, near South Parkway Station and then onto a Loop line to the airport and then back to the West Coast Line near Ditton.The Loop line could accommodate trains from Southport, Ormskirk and North Liverpool, Liverpool Lime Street, Crewe and all stations south to Birmingham and the Midlands,plus a one change facility at South Parkway for passengers from Warrington, Manchester, and all stations to the East. The opening of the Halton Curve will mean that trains from Chester, Wrexham, Shrewsbury and the North Wales Coast could also use the Loop Line into JLA. Unless this line is built soon the currently available pathways will become built on or used as roads.

By Garston