'You just want to be able to get on and off the same as everybody else'
A big win for transport accessibility, plus the rest of our weekly briefing
Dear readers — welcome to this week’s Post briefing, which has some news about the red-hot rental market in Liverpool and the latest local Covid-19 data. We also recommend great things to do this week, and look at a big win for wheelchair users and disabled passengers in the city region.
In case you missed it, our weekend read was about the people of Lark Lane and their memories of living there. Read that piece here. A warm welcome to our new subscribers who joined us after reading the piece.
We sent out two members-only stories last week. Our reporter Mollie Simpson wrote a moving interview with the mother of a veteran who served in Afghanistan, and Alice Porter, a freelance journalist who has written for VICE and the Independent, met some of the young digital stars in Liverpool who are making waves on TikTok. We’ve got two great members-only stories coming up this week — we’ll send the whole list a preview of one of those when it’s published.
If you enjoyed this briefing, do share it with friends and family to spread the word.
🌥 This week’s weather
📈 Covid-19 update
The case rate for the Liverpool City Region is 456.8, up 11.3% from the previous week, compared to England’s, which is 515, up 5.6%. Cases are highest in Halton, where the rate is around 500, and lowest in St Helens, just below 400. See our dashboard below.
The big story: ‘Things like this will make a huge difference’
The top line: New measures are being brought into force across Merseyrail which will make travel across the city region much easier for wheelchair users and disabled passengers. A campaign to improve access at Rock Ferry train station in Birkenhead has been pushed forward by Steve Rotheram with a £200k investment, and new ‘step-free’ level access trains are soon coming into service across Merseyrail, which will eradicate the need for ramps
Background: Rock Ferry station still doesn’t have lifts to allowed disabled access onto platforms, meaning passengers would have to travel to the next station to travel, or be carried onto platforms.
In 2020, the government turned down a funding request for accessibility measures on Rock Ferry, despite the Liverpool City Region putting it on the top of the list of their priorities.
Labour Councillor for Rock Ferry, Clare O’Hagan, said last week she was concerned disabled residents in her ward were experiencing social isolation as a result of obstacles to travel.
The latest: A long-running campaign that involved MPs and local councillors has been successful, after gaining financial backing from Rotheram. Rampless trains are being introduced across the train network which will mean wheelchair users can access the trains without asking for assistance from staff. It’s thought this will speed up journeys and eradicate obstacles to travel.
Here’s what Ellis Palmer Babe, a Birkenhead-based journalist and prominent accessibility advocate, told us:
This big difference is going to be ease of access getting on and off the trains. It’s about eradicating some of the missing links between stations as well. Right now, you can get on from the next station but you have to come back on yourself in order to get to Rock Ferry. Hopefully things like this will make a difference.
Looking ahead: According to Ellis, at least 53 of the 68 train stations across the Liverpool City Region have some level of access. That’s compared to around 20% of train and tube networks in London. Historically, it hasn’t always been easy to retrofit or improve access due to Merseyside’s large Victorian infrastructure, but he says recent strides are being made to create full access for disabled passengers. He wants our transport system to look to Barcelona, which offers 100% access to disabled passengers across its transport network, with rampless trains and lifts. “You just want to be able to get on and off the same as everybody else,” he told us.
Other local news in brief
The G7 summit was held in the Museum of Liverpool this weekend, which saw foreign secretaries from the UK, Germany, Italy, France, the US, Canada and Japan. Leaders used the summit to increase pressure on Iran over its nuclear power programme and agreed on co-ordinated action against Russia if it invades Ukraine. Read more.
A new report in the Economist finds that the rental market is hottest outside London — with rents rising to meet the increasing demand for city centre living in Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds. Whereas during the pandemic, experts noticed cities hollowing out as countryside and suburban living became more popular, now we’re seeing a reverse trend which favours demand in city centres. Read more.
A letter in the Guardian this weekend suggested Liverpool is the ideal place for a slavery memorial, after plans for a bronze statue valued at £4m in London were stalled. Roland Hill writes: “The Canning Graving Docks were central to the slave trade, repairing and fettling hundreds of slave ships for their voyages of death, and misery for those who survived the journey and generations of their descendants.” Read more.
Plans to open a gaming centre in Huyton have been rejected by Knowsley Council after councillors said the site would negatively impact the redevelopment of the town centre. Knowsley was once named the gambling capital of the UK, and a study found almost 80% of people in Knowsley had gambled in the past year. The council leader said: “Hopefully this is a clear message to the applicants and any future applicants that these premises are not welcome in our town centres.” Read more.
Alex Hatchman, the first female CEO of Fletchers Solicitors, has left the business after it was taken over by a private equity company, Liverpool Business News reports. Fletchers Solicitors is a large medical negligence law firm and employs around 500 people in Southport and across the region. She departed just weeks after the takeover. Read more.
Photo of the week
A festive evening on Albert Dock. Photo via ricewinehangover on Instagram.
Our favourite reads
Hannah Al Othman, the Sunday Times’ North of England reporter, meets a history writer from Liverpool who has been collecting old postcards for decades. She says: “It started with local history photographs of familiar places. Places I’d lived in, former shops I remembered. I do share a lot of my finds on Twitter and Instagram. Hearing people as enthused as I am about my finds gives me a real buzz.” Read more.
We liked this interview with Craig Charles, the TV star and game show host, about what he’s learned from stardom and scandals. “Charles was born in Liverpool in 1964 to a Guyanese father and Irish mother. His father told his son that he met his mother outside a boarding house with a ‘No blacks, no Irish, no dogs’ sign in the window. They lived on the tough Cantril Farm estate and so he knows how much the amount of money you can win on a quiz show can change lives.” Read more.
And we enjoyed Paul McCartney writing in the New Yorker about the inspiration behind Eleanor Rigby. He remembers a figure from his childhood as pivotal in the inspitation for the song, and says his collaboration with John Lennon also helped bring it to life. “It’s a little strange to be picking up rice after a wedding. Does that mean she was a cleaner, someone not invited to the wedding, and only viewing the celebrations from afar? Why would she be doing that? I wanted to make it more poignant than her just cleaning up afterward, so it became more about someone who was lonely. Someone not likely to have her own wedding, but only the dream of one.” Read more.
Home of the week
This charming 6-bedroom house in Bootle is on the market for £290,000. It has sash windows, a stone fireplace, and a lovely garden with wooden decking.
🎨 There’s an exhibition at Calderstones Mansion House near Strawberry Field by two local artists. The collection is by Suzanne Grace and Steve Bayley, who use expressionism and contemporary styles to evoke nature and natural portraiture. It ends this Wednesday — we recommend stopping by to take a look. More info here.
🎅 A stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol begins this Saturday at St George’s Hall. Live musicians and actors take to the stage to bring you the story, which is said to be the same stage where Dickens used to recite his books. Tickets here.
✍️ A life-drawing class in L1 tomorrow evening invites you into a relaxed and supportive environment in a coffee shop. All levels of experience are welcome. Book here.
🎸 The Rockin’ Rhinos, a kid’s punk-rock band is playing at Unity this Saturday afternoon. Expect mash-ups of nursery rhymes and punk classics, and treats for the adults at the bar. Book tickets here.
🎭 Also at Unity, our culture writer Vicky Anderson recommends the Christmas festival on Friday evening. Nana Funk’s Stocking Filler blends cabaret performance with satire and audience games. Book here.
Letters from readers
Amazing piece in The Post about Lark Lane (‘Life on Lark Lane’). Couldn’t imagine living anywhere else, Ryan
This is a brilliant piece (‘The battle to save Liverpool’s churches’) — Stephen Yip is a great guy and it's no surprise the council is the one dragging their heels. Fingers crossed the money can be found, David
I can't recommend subscribing to The Post enough (it would also make a great Christmas present). I particularly enjoyed Mollie’s story on 'post-Covid' freshers (‘I’ve been waiting for this’) and Robin Brown on the rebirth of Smithdown Road (‘Street spirit: How a famous old Liverpool road was reborn’), Alice