I wanted to see the site of what is proposed as a major ‘inter-modal’ complex on the Manchester Ship Canal, known to most of us as Weston Point Docks, a project led by one of the foremost freight distribution companies in the UK, the Stobart group.
This company well known in the UK as a road-freight enterprise has diversified into rail haulage and with Weston Point Docks at Runcorn they are adding port operations to their business. Here where the navigable Weaver joined the Ship Canal was one of those great hubs of industry which mushroomed along the 36 miles of ‘the big ditch’ from Eastham to Salford. Once called briefly ‘Saltport’ Weston Point was busy with chemical industries based on salt fromCheshire together with transhipment to and from the Potteries and the Midlands by narrow canal and rail.
It is years now since the docks handled traffic and owners British Waterways, a government ‘agency’, in accordance with their master’s policy sold the land freehold for redevelopment and this has now passed to Stobart Ports. A major remodelling of the area is proposed and the artist’s impression shows much of the water space is to be infilled to create fast turn-round quays with container storage and warehousing. There is rail access and across the Mersey at Widnes is a complementary rail container terminal. The strategic road and rail crossings of the Mersey and Ship Canal here with a new ‘Mersey Gateway’ road bridge proposed adds to the whole area’s ‘inter-modal’ freight handling potential. So will the Ship Canal find a new future? As government and businesses plan to cull energy use and reduce their ‘carbon footprint’ a waterway which straddles so many transport modes, still supports considerable industry and is close to a large proportion of the UK population, should have a healthy future. But for the Weston Point project it is early days and it is hardly the best economic climate in which to thrive.
More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - February 2010 Issue
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