"...if Liverpool can get into top gear again there is no limit to the city's potential. The scale and resilience of the buildings and people is amazing – it is a world city, far more so than London and Manchester. It doesn't feel like anywhere else in Lancashire: comparisons always end up overseas – Dublin, or Boston, or Hamburg."
– Ian Nairn, Britain's Changing Towns, 1967
Ian did go on and mentioned to forget any modern developments in Liverpool.
The problem with Liverpool is that it became a gigantic Council House estate. The private sector should have been allowed in to build owner/occupier homes. Private residential was excluded from the city centre, yet Council blocks were erected at the end of Byrom St.
The middle classes moved to the outskirts where they could by their own homes and commute into the city by the electric urban commuter rail network. This left the city a working class enclave.
Rapid-transit Commuter Rail, with its radial lines from the city centre, enabled people from the outer suburbs, and surrounding small towns, of cities to access the jobs in the city centre. In the specific case of Liverpool, this contributed to the decline of the inner-cities, as people moved to greener, and cleaner, places to live.
In the case of commuter-rail, and large through roads, as opposed to a meshed metro, there was severe negative affects as commuter rail contributed to inner-city blight.
The authorities that allowed the construction were unaware at the time. OK, the outer reaches of cities were supposed to be drawn into the city. I doubt they were expecting the city to be drawn out. In Liverpool's case The electrification of commuter-rail lines in the early 1900s drew people away from the inner-cities. The new electric trains were very fast and clean. At the same time large boulevards were built radiating out from the city and a comprehensive tram system was built with trams in the central reservation - John Lennon lived on one of the boulevards. Trams could get people out of the centre pretty fast as well, but not as far, or as fast, as commuter-rail. The clean running, electric, comprehensive tram network closed down in 1957 for some inexplicable reason. The opening of the under-river Mersey road tunnel in the early 1930s, added again to the decline of the inner-city districts as the middle classes moved out, with the poor working class remaining.
The Liverpool inner-cities were a mixture of working and middles classes. Whole areas of near 200 year old Georgian houses were demolished. OK, some working class houses needed bulldozing for sure, but the people who lived in the inner-cities were disenfranchised. The Georgian houses still are being demolished singularly, as absent landowners allow them to rot. Seeing the success in the USA and Hong Kong, the city was denied to implement Land Valuation Taxation.
Commuter-Rail sock life out of the inner-cities, but then came Thatcher/Reagan demolishing industry and outsourcing manufacturing to China to compound the problem.
Rail overall creates economic growth but sometimes shifts wealth from one area to another. Thought out properly, rail does overall create economic growth with no negative effect on any district. Implemented incorrectly rail can have a negative affect on parts of a community. That was the case with Liverpool and also many north American cities:
- The outer parts prospered while the inner-cities slumped.
- Visitors see the now ugly inner-city districts easily as they circle the city centre.
- The city then gets a negative image from outsiders,
- The city image suffers
- Overall Investment tails off
- The city declines
That is all too famiiar.