Tom Hicks (left) & George Gillett take their place in the directors box - Picture: Colin Lane (200)
LIVERPOOL FC’s new American owners will have to bankroll a new rail link if they want to increase the capacity of the new Stanley Park stadium beyond 60,000, it has emerged.
Joint owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are on the verge of submitting what are described as “stunning” plans for a new home for the Reds.
Although the two partners have made it clear they want a ground able to accommodate between 70,000 and 80,000 crowds, they have accepted it is impossible in the immediate future to exceed the 60,000 already agreed by planners.
Sources close to the stadium project say the owners know they will have to pay a large chunk of a scheme to enable thousands extra to reach the new stadium, and that leaves them with just one option – a new rail link. Their advisers are already studying the prospects of bringing back into passenger use a rail link closed around 30 years ago. It would open up the so-called Bootle line to passenger trains, giving a direct access to the new ground from Lime Street Station.
The line is currently used by freight traffic from Liverpool docks, linking to the main rail network close to Edge Hill.
Liverpool FC will not seek permission at this stage to build a bigger ground.
But, as exclusively predicted in the Daily Post earlier this year, the new plans will enable the ground to be enlarged later on, building up the capacity.
However, to win the go-ahead for a capacity beyond 60,000, the club will have to undertake a detailed transport impact plan to demonstrate how crowds of up to 20,000 more can reach the stadium without overwhelming the road and rail infrastructure.
Revised stadium plans will be submitted to the city council on July 25.
Last night, the prospect of re-opening the Bootle line to passenger traffic was welcomed by Cllr Mark Dowd, chairman of the region’s transport body, Merseytravel.
He said: “If the needs of Liverpool FC is the catalyst that finally sees the re-opening of this line to passengers, I welcome it. For some years, I have wanted to see the use of this rail link to passengers.
“It would provide a good service to people in the Aintree area and would revolutionise public transport in North Merseyside.
“I travelled along the line by train not so long ago to check out its feasibility, and it would provide an exceptionally good public transport link. The line already takes trains carrying 1,000 tonnes of freight a time, so passenger trains would be no problem.”
To win consent for an enlarged station, Liverpool FC’s owners would have to make a contribution, likely to run into several millions of pounds, towards the cost of a new station and other necessary works to re-establish a rail link. Sources close to the debate say, without a commitment to the rail link, the club’s owners would find it difficult, if not impossible, to extend the stadium.
But the rewards for the club by expanding the ground would be so huge that the outlay in rail infrastructure would be modest compared to the rewards it would generate.