As Liverpool celebrates the re-opening of St James station as part of a £172.5m investment drive, Getintothis’ Lewis Ridley hears from Baltic Triangle businesses on what it could do for the district.
Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has this month approved plans to invest £172.5m in transport to drive growth across the area, according to The Business Desk.
The projects identified for potential funding, subject to developing robust business cases and approval through council and planning, include the plan to re-open St James station, derelict since closing on January 1, 1917.
It lies between Liverpool Central Station and Brunswick station in the heart of Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, and while it could cost the best part of £50m, businesses in the area believe its a project worth backing.
David Williams of one of the area’s major pulls, the Baltic Market, had this to say;
“We’re absolutely delighted to hear about the reopening of St James’ Station, we’ve been huge advocates for it ever since we opened our doors to Baltic Market. We’ve watched The Baltic Triangle go from strength to strength over the past few years and to watch thousands of people drive, get taxis or walk down weekend upon weekend is incredible.”
“By opening the station we’re literally opening the area to the whole of the UK, giving the surrounded businesses the chance to show more people how truly special this area is. Since Cain’s Brewery opened, the likes of Ghetto Golf and Bongo’s Bingo etc. it really has drawn crowds in and made the city centre feel bigger, but this would be an absolute game-changer for everybody involved.”
Maja Agnevik is HR and Operations Manager at music publisher Sentric Music, based on Parliament Street, just yards away from where the station sits: “Here at Sentric Music HQ, we’d certainly welcome the initiative of opening St James again as a fully operational train station. Having our own neighbourhood station would benefit us in so many ways; connecting talented staff from all over the North West to our company through an easier and environmentally friendly train commute.”
“The new train line would also help bring all Lime Street traffic up to our quarters too, meaning artists and clients can travel to us pretty much door to door from everywhere in the North, as well as London where much of our industry is based.”
One of the key venues in the area is District, and Jayne Casey is encouraged by the prospect of the derelict station being brought back into use: “I think most people in the Baltic area are thrilled at the idea of the train link, It will make a massive difference to business in the area.”
“A lot of people travel from all over the city to work in the Baltic, so now rather than walking from Lime street or Central they will be able to take a connection straight to the door, as will visitors to the area. I think it will play a vital role in the growth and sustainability of the Baltic area, long term it will help expand business development and work opportunities and make life easier for the casual visitor.”
Of course, the plans are exciting news for festivals too, Chris from Threshold Festival said this;
“It’s really promising news, we were putting in work in the Baltic when this was a distant possibility and we’ve been aware that the campaign for the station has been bubbling away for a few years. It’s a real sign that all the work by the many creatives, venues, companies and communities is paying off for the area. We’re sure it will be a huge boost to the Triangle.”
Sound City moved to the Baltic Triangle in 2018, and Lois from the festival is excited by the opportunity a new rail link offers to the neighbourhood: “Having St James Street station would be an excellent asset to the Baltic Triangle. One of the biggest issues in the Baltic is that there are just not enough places to park. St. James Street station would allow for an easier commute to work, encourage walking & public transport use, reduce congestion and overall be better for the environment.”
“This also would be incredibly useful for the music lovers who attend Sound City festival, and other venues and events in the Baltic too. Overall, this would be easier for everyone to get to the Baltic Triangle and enjoy the multitude of creative gatherings that take place here.”
While the plans are yet to be realised they have come a considerable distance when many a Baltic regular popped their head over the wall to gaze at a derelict station below. The plans are part of a wider look at infrastructure and public transport that could see investment in buses, ferries and the cycle network.
As the area sees more and more people moving into the ever-growing number of apartments popping up, a dedicated public transport hub would be a welcome addition to the Triangle and might have the added benefit of taking a few cars off the roads.
It should be said, the work required to make the station a reality is a little daunting and would be highlighted in any business case to come forward. It will require a new station built with ticketing and waiting areas, new platforms, structural work to contain the old stone and old brickwork, and new lift shafts put in to bring people down to platform level, and for anyone that has seen it, it is a long way down.
While many of us welcome the news, it’s important to remember that this is just a list of proposed options for the fund. There are a total of 18 projects bidding for funding, the vast majority of the bids coming from Merseytravel.
There is still a lot to play for, and St James will have to make sense on paper for it to move forward, it will have to make sense financially for Merseytravel and the city itself. If there isn’t a financial incentive and significant social return, an underground railway station at the Baltic Triangle could remain a pipe dream.