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Network Rail bid to block cycle route sparks fury

Company seek £500,000 from Sustrans and council to retain link

Network Rail has been heavily criticised over proposals to block off a cycle path underneath a railway bridge in Liverpool before constructing embankments on either side reports the Southport Visiter.

The profit-making, but “not for dividend” company which owns the UK’s rail network including tracks, bridges, viaducts and stations has offered to run a smaller tunnel through the embankment providing Sustrans and the local council pay £500,000 towards it.

The move has drawn a furious response from cycling campaigners and councillors alike as blocking the tunnel would create the only break in the Loop Line section of the Trans-Pennine Trail. The Loop Line is described as a "hidden green corridor" passing sandstone cuttings and old station platforms as it wends its way through Liverpool’s suburbs.

Council regeneration boss Malcolm Kennedy told the Visiter he did not believe the council or other public sector bodies should be bearing the cost of retaining a route that has already been paid for with public money.

He said: “Network Rail should be spending their own money for the benefit of the public not just those who use rail travel. It would be the case that the only place the line would be broken would be in Liverpool, and I will be moving heaven and earth to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Andrew Grimbly, secretary of the Merseyside Cycling Campaign, told the ‘paper: “This is a major route in a critical place. Lots of school children use it for walking to school. There would be no alternative but to use the busy road. This is something that hundreds of people use every day.”

Councillor Tim Beaumont, chair of the Liverpool Cycling Forum, added: “It would end up dead space and could become attractive to anti-social behaviour.”

A spokesman for Sustrans said that: “Network Rail has made it clear that they wish to carry out bridge work at Walton Vale, Sustrans is currently working with Liverpool City Council to find the best solution for walkers and cyclists.”

Network Rail said: “We are in discussions with the council regarding costs and the work has been deferred for the time being to allow for formal discussions and agreement by all affected parties.”

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