Artful Codger, Roger May, March 6, 2015

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Sometimes events on the other side of the country can send out ripples that have major long-term implications for our region, and that could well be the case with plans to revive Liverpool.

Work is almost complete on dredging the Mersey, which will enable Liverpool to cater for the massive deepwater container ships that now dominate world shipping trade, posing real competition to the east coast port of Felixstowe and the trade flowing into the country along the A14 road.

By the end of the year, Liverpool will be ready to install new giant cranes that can rapidly transfer huge loads of containers from the monster ships on to smaller vessels that can then transport the containers up the Manchester Ship Canal to Salford, a transport hub that links in to 10 motorways – many of them far from the east coast.

The plans to revive Liverpool also take into account the widening work on the Panama Canal, linking the Pacific and Atlantic, which means bigger container ships from the Far East will be using this route to reach Britain, and making west coast ports a more attractive proposition than those on the east coast.

This shift in world trade patterns is unlikely to affect small east coast ports such as Lynn, which deal with modestly vessels that ply their trade with the Baltic.

But it could be the final nail in the coffin of plans to attract major trade to Yarmouth and the enclosed harbour which has been built there in recent years at considerable expense.

It could also have longer term implications for local road infrastructure spending.

One of the declared aims of the revived port of Liverpool is to attract a significant proportion of the trade that flows through Felixstowe, which if it happens would lead to a big drop in traffic on the A14, which has been literally swamped in recent years, especially the stretch that passes close to Cambridge. At this point on the road, work is already taking place on widening, and there are plans for further improvements all the way past Huntingdon to the junctions with the A1 and M6.

If traffic on the A14 eases, it might free up cash for improvements to other roads in the region, notably the A47. There again, if the port of Yarmouth looks unlikely to prosper, then it might affect Government plans for that end of that road.

Perhaps it might then strengthen the case for development of the A47 from the Al, near Peterborough, to Lynn, so at least Fenland and West Norfolk can benefit from being linked into the dual carriageway network.

So, this fresh Merseybeat could have reverberations that reach all the way to West Norfolk.