Underground freight system tabled as alternative to controversial Port of Liverpool access road
Pioneering underground freight transport technology could provide a zero emissions alternative to the controversial Port of Liverpool access road, according to backers of the system.
Campaign group Save Rimrose Valley claims the solution offers a sustainable alternative to National Highways’ A5036 Port of Liverpool access scheme, which would demolish the 3.5km Rimrose Valley Country Park in Merseyside.
The group has been fighting the government-led access road proposal – part of its RIS2 package of road construction projects – for over four years.
The potential technological alternative is provided by Cambridgeshire-based firm Mole Solutions.
An underground freight pipeline would see containers collected from and dropped off at a purpose-built inland hub next to the motorway network and transported to and from the port, removing the need for HGVs to drive directly to the port’s entrance.
According to initial findings, the cost of such a scheme would be comparable to road construction, with savings to be made on subsequent maintenance. National Highways estimates the cost of its scheme to be between £163M and £335M.
Crucially, the technology is electrically powered and zero emission at point of use, meaning it tackles both air pollution and CO2 emissions.
Mole Solutions’ technology has arisen due to the challenge of transferring units in port side cities, which can cause accidents, congestion, pollution and inefficiencies. Active consideration and studies are under way for applications in Germany, China, Vietnam and a major UK port.
Mole Solutions technical director Stuart Prosser said that the innovation provides scope to transport “container freight, or indeed any kind of goods underground”.
He added: “The need to maintain an effective supply-chain and to decarbonise our infrastructure have never been more relevant, with the impacts of Brexit and the climate emergency dominating the news agenda.
“The Port-City conflict is common across the globe. We believe we have come up with a solution. We want to help and both we and our delivery partners are ready to help. We would welcome the opportunity to work with Peel Ports, the Department for Transport and Sefton Council to develop and deliver a system fit for the 21st century and beyond.”
Save Rimrose Valley representative Stuart Bennett said the group is “incredibly excited” about the technology and its potential.
“Not only does it dismantle the case for constructing a new road; it would immediately improve living conditions for those living alongside the existing A5036 route. Everyone benefits, including port operators, Peel Ports,” he said.
Bennett emphasised that the technology “represents the answer to local people’s prayers”.
He added: “It blows apart the myth that this road proposal is the only option to cater for the Port of Liverpool’s expansion. It isn’t.
“This is a golden opportunity for Peel Ports to withdraw its support for National Highways’ road proposal and to get behind a truly sustainable solution. In doing so, they would transform how they are perceived by many of us living in the surrounding communities. We hope they grasp this with both hands for the sake of their business, our communities and the future of our planet.”
The technology also features in Sefton Council’s 2020 Arup Port Access Report.
The National Highways scheme was shrouded in controversy earlier this year after campaigners released internal National Highways emails relating to the Port of Liverpool project which showed deliberate attempts to obfuscate the FOI process.
A National Highways spokesperson said: “Liverpool City Region’s Port Access Steering Group is charged with considering multi-modal approaches in addressing transport issues in north Liverpool. Our proposals form one part of that solution.
“We’re fully committed to progressing the A5036 scheme to improve safety and traffic conditions, support economic growth and both protect and enhance the environment.”
Source: New Civil Engineer