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Laz: Wapping Tunnel Must Be Rescued

Larry Neild on how a promotion re-discovered an extraordinary gem of the city

Published on August 22nd 2011.

Laz: Wapping Tunnel Must Be Rescued

LIVERPOOL politician Malcolm Kennedy and the city council’s cultural officer John Hinchcliffe ventured into the depths of one of the city’s hidden gems, and realised they may have struck gold.

“It was an amazing experience and the tunnel really is in good condition, about a mile and three quarters in length."

The two were among the last of an 800 strong army of subterranean explorers to journey through the disused and abandoned Wapping Tunnel, buried beneath the city streets.

And their verdict – the tunnel, built in 1830 as part of the world’s first railway, linking Liverpool and Manchester by steam locomotive – could become the world’s first eco-tunnel.

Jaguar Land Rover, showing off their new Halewood build Evoque, have used  Wapping Tunnel as part of a rough-terrain test-drive route for world-wide journalists.

Both the new car and the city have scored major points from gobsmacked journos from every continent.

But will the brick-built tunnel now be resealed, to be lost for ever, or is there light at the end of the Wapping Tunnel?

For some years a small group of people, egged on mainly by me, have been promoting the concept of using the old tunnel as a green-link between Edge Hill and the waterfront.



It’s too good an opportunity to lose.


In the 1990s the council commissioned a report from AMEC to examine the potential for bringing back into use the Wapping tunnel and the much wider Waterloo Tunnel (which hits ground level near Costco in Great Howard Street).

The good news was both tunnels were in amazingly good nick. The Wapping Tunnel was, after all, the world’s first to be built underneath a major metropolis, so there were no early examples to follow.

AMEC concluded the wider Waterloo tunnel would be viable as a potential toll route between Edge Hill and the docks.

Wapping was narrower, and therefore not viable for road traffic.  Our idea, though, is more novel. Create a large car park at Edge Hill for a park and cycle/walk route.  The tunnel would just need levelling and have lighting. It could then be used as an underground walkway, cycle route, with rickshaws and battery-powered buggies.  It would ease congestion in the city centre, and as the tunnel emerges close to the Waterfront arena, it would be a new green mode of getting around.

Wappingt.EntranceJohn Hinchcliffe was impressed with the tunnel.

He told me: “It was an amazing experience and the tunnel really is in good condition, about a mile and three quarters in length. Towards the waterfront it branches into two tunnels, something I never realised. I have been trying to get to visit the tunnel for some time and this was the perfect opportunity with the Evoque promotion. The surface was a bit rough, and ideal for test driving the capabilities of the Evoque (it performed spectacularly and I’d really love one of these cars, says John).

“The tunnel has massive potential, and could be of international importance for us as a city. I hope this exercise will generate at least a discussion about the tunnel’s potential.”

Cllr Kennedy, Executive Member for Regeneration, was equally impressed with his underground experience.

He told me: “I think we should look to see if it can be used as an eco-route from Edge Hill to our amazing waterfront and ACC. Maybe there's a commercial operator who will see this as a good project. It is something we should explore.” 

WAPPING Tunnel was built to enable goods to be transported by rail from the central and south docks system. It starts at Edge Hill original terminus of the Liverpool to Manchester rail line.

The tunnel is just over 2 kilometres in length (6,660 feet) and emerges in Park Lane.

The tunnel was finally closed to rail traffic in the 1972 with the gradual closure of the docks that was to leave the Albert  and Wapping Docks derelict until their renaissance in the 1980s.

In 2007 the local transport executive, Merseytravel, considered a report by its CEO, Neil Scales, to examine bringing the tunnel back into use.

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14 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousAugust 22nd 2011.

Nice thoughts, great ideas, but you are forgetting one thing - this is Liverpool. So the tunnell will remain buried and forgotten to be discovered in a few hundred years when g-ahead Greater Manchester expands so much it gobbles up the suburb of Liverpool. Wish I could be around in 2311 to see it all happening.

AnonymousAugust 22nd 2011.

If there is market demand, then the tunnel is viable. But I have my doubts. What commercial operator is going to take it on in the present climate?

Absinthe & TurksAugust 23rd 2011.

Bicycling in a tunnel is a sweaty business without currents of cooling, drying, fresh air. On the plus side it should be level.

It's novel idea and would be a good tourist attraction but commuters are unlikely to want to pay to use it and there's the problem of policing it. Currently the authorities can't keep the old loop line cyclepath clear of hooligans smashing bottles, dumping obstacles and lighting fires. A tunnel woud be a greater attraction to criminal scallies.

It would make an excellent party venue; did not Joseph Williamson hold lavish dinners in his famous tunnels?

AnonymousAugust 23rd 2011.

Another problem with some cyclists is that they are happy to spend £3,500 on some status symbol bike and a fortune on silly helmets and Lycra but they are too tight to buy lamps for their bikes! Cyclelamps would surely be compulsory in this tunnel?

Nathan Haddy shared this on Facebook on August 23rd 2011.
Reader XxxAugust 23rd 2011.

Well done Laz for picking this up. And well done the PR chappie or chappess at Jaguar Landrover who had the idea of using the tunnels to promote the new Evoque. The same person had the great idea of driving visitors through Dukes Dock (opposite Beatles Story) - strange but true. Could Laz ask him or her to suggest other ways in which we might use the tunnels?

Tony EllisAugust 23rd 2011.

Nice one Larry. How about championng the Fruit Exchange too? I think the Exchange Hall is still in tact. www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-492621-fruit-exchange-10-18-liverpool…

Tony Ellis shared this on Facebook on August 23rd 2011.
Tony EllisAugust 23rd 2011.

Come to think of it, wouldn't the Fruit Exchange make a better site for the Gay Village?

Alan Hird shared this on Facebook on August 23rd 2011.
MikeAugust 27th 2011.

Why is there a discussion at all? After the gems that have been lost to the city during the apalling vandalism of the sixties when the "Planners" destroyed our history and heritage surely ANY retrievable features should be sacrosanct and developed accordingly.
The Overhead railway should be re-nstated too using modern tech like Bangkok's wonderful Skytrain!

1 Response: Reply To This...
GeorgemciverOctober 14th 2011.

The overhead was demolished for a reason..it rusted away due to the steam trains travelling underneath.By the way..Peel are 'going' to build a high level MONORAIL system instead..ha..ha..ha..ha ha hahahahahahhahahhh......oh my sides.

Liverpool WagSeptember 5th 2011.

That's very funny Tony

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