Rocket plan gets funding boost

A £120m plan to radically redesign Liverpool’s Rocket junction at the M62 has been given a huge boost by the Department for Transport.

The Rocket Junction scheme has been approved to progress to the next stage of development under the Major Road Network (MRN) and Large Local Majors (LLM) programme.

To help the scheme progress to the next stage, the Department is to make a contribution of £1.23 million towards the costs of developing an Outline Business Case (OBC).

Transport for the North had included Liverpool City Council’s scheme as one of four major projects within a £700m programme of works that have been identified as critical to the economic growth of the north of England.

The draft proposals for the major upgrade to the Rocket Junction would include the demolition of the existing Queens Drive Flyover and replacing it with a new roundabout, featuring a dual lane underpass.

The Rocket Junction is the busiest in Liverpool city region with over 100,000 vehicles travelling through it every day. It connects the start of the M62, with the A5080 and the A5058 Queens Drive.

Due to increasing traffic, the junction is currently functioning at full capacity in the morning and evening peak hours, and this is expected to deteriorate further in the next five years.

Liverpool City Council has recently declared a Climate Change emergency and sees the scheme as a huge part of its programme to reduce congestion and air pollution in the city.

Physical signs of weakness in the Queens Drive Viaduct have also prompted investigations which indicate that significant investment is needed to upgrade the structure.

As well as the removal of the flyovers, the existing signalised junction will be reconfigured to incorporate a traffic signal controlled gyratory with provision for through traffic travelling north/south on Queens Drive. It is known as a ‘hamburger’ type layout, where the main road passes through the centre of the roundabout.

The Rocket Junction Upgrade project will reduce congestion and improve the length and reliability of journey times. The design will also be developed so as to enhance road safety and improve connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists with a more pleasant, greener environment for all users.

The scheme is seen as critical to Liverpool’s future economic development with the city focusing on developing its port and knowledge economy.

The bid to the Department for Transport is for £92m with Liverpool City Council contributing the remainder via its £500m Better Roads programme. If approved, it is anticipated works for the scheme would begin in 2023.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “I’m greatly encouraged that the Department of Transport is helping us to progress the plan to remodel The Rocket, which is an integral part of our plans to improve the road network, drive forward the economy and create a Liverpool Powerhouse.

“The Outline Business Case is a major stepping stone and to have this initial backing is a significant signal that the government recognises the economic and environmental importance of this scheme.

“As we all know, the M62 junction is causing commuter misery every single day and by its flawed design is causing congestion and contributing to greater air pollution.”

Councillor Sharon Connor, Cabinet member for highways, said: “We need the M62 to work for Liverpool and the wider city region and with this funding we can now develop the case in detail.

“This is a scheme that will certainly unleash huge benefits for all concerned be they commuters, businesses, residents and visitors to our city and I look forward to presenting the final evidence to government.”

Peter Molyneux, Major Roads Director at Transport for the North, said: “We’re delighted that this scheme is being funded for the next stage of development, and look forward to continuing our work with Liverpool City Council and Liverpool City Region.

“As the busiest junction in Liverpool, with more than 100,000 vehicles travelling through it each day, this is an essential upgrade project that will have significant benefits for all road users. As well as bringing journey times down locally it will also have a positive impact on the wider motorway network and support Liverpool’s ambitious growth plans.”

Predicted post rocket impact:

The Rocket Junction upgrade will support SMART objectives which are outcome-orientated (i.e. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-limited), including:

• 15% decrease in road users’ travel time through Rocket Junction by 2030

• 30% increase in weekday peak-hour traffic flow volume through Rocket Junction, by 2030, to relieve more congested corridors

• 20% decrease in weekday peak-hour traffic flow volume through parallel route junctions by 2030

• 10% decrease in personal injury accidents within 200m from Rocket Junction by 2030

• 10% decrease in road users’ travel time variability through Rocket Junction by 2030

• 10% decrease in greenhouse gas / CO2 within 500m from Rocket Junction by 2030

• 50% increase in weekday / weekend daily active pedestrian and cyclist movement volume through / across Rocket Junction by 2030, to reflect easier access and crossing facilities

Removal of the existing flyover has the potential to enhance the built environment in the area, enhancing the architectural landscape. Space created by removing the flyover would present the opportunity to incorporate a significant landmark piece to enhance this gateway to Liverpool.