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MP challenges Government to invest in rail to save Rimrose Valley

Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson says he will keep up the pressure on the Government in order to save the Rimrose Valley from the bulldozers and protect the public from dangerous roadside air pollution.

The MP asked the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in the Commons what the Government was doing to invest in rail services to take freight off the roads.

The MP was left baffled by the response of the Minister who used the opportunity to announce plans to look at re-opening a section of the line in Yorkshire.

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Mr Esterson said: “The Government say they want to reduce roadside emissions yet announce that a road is being built through the Rimrose Valley to carry freight from the Port of Liverpool.

“This is an area of the country that already has some of the highest levels of emissions, levels that are accepted to be dangerous and which a court ruled recently that the Government had not done enough to address.

“Why aren’t the Government listening to calls for improving rail infrastructure and increasing rail freight as an answer to this problem.

“The Government showed it has not got a grip of this problem when Conservative Minister, Chris Grayling got up and starting talking about reopening the Skipton to Colne line as a potential solution due to it being near Drax power station.

“Biomass is only one product imported at the Port of Liverpool and news of this small section of track possibly re-opening will be cold comfort those who who need investment in the railways near to the port.

“I and my constituents value the Rimrose Valley Country Park and we don’t want to see a road built through it when the alternatives have not been properly considered.”

Mr Esterson recently wrote to the Environment Minister Therese Coffey to challenge the Government’s response to the recent  High Court judgment on tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations. The Court ruled that the Government’s plan for reducing NO2 in Sefton was inadequate and that excessive levels of NO2 in the borough were unacceptable.

The Government said it would ask Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council to formulate a plan to reduce NO2 levels.

Mr Esterson wrote: “Given the court criticised the Government, it is baffling that you appear to be putting the responsibility onto local authorities to respond, when you have cut their budgets to the bone.

“And further, it appears remarkable that given the court ruling and your own supposed commitment to reducing roadside emissions, that the Department for Transport is planning to build a new road from the Port of Liverpool, an area with some of the poorest air quality in the country.

“Please can you therefore tell me what evidence there is that this new road, which will also go through Rimrose Valley Country Park in my constituency, will not increase the levels of NO2 above acceptable levels and what the projected NO2 levels are for the new road as it passes through the Rimrose Valley.”

Mr Esterson added: “In the South of England a tunnel would be built judging by the decision to build a new tunnel under the river Thames. Sefton Council is proposing a tunnel for road traffic, so please will you consider their proposal. This is a public health emergency and residents in the borough of Sefton are at real risk from air pollution. We should be investing in rail freight not adding to the congestion and pollution which comes from more lorries on our roads. If this government will not make such an investment, they should step aside because the next Labour government will invest in rail.”

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