Bus rapid transit schemes will be looked at as a way of expanding the Merseyrail network to hard-to-reach and important locations around the Liverpool City Region.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will confirm a £710m funding package for the region today, the details of which were revealed earlier this week.

The historic settlement will provide a huge boost for Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram's vision for an interconnected public transport around the city region.

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A large amount of the funding will go towards new battery packs, which will be fitted to the new £500m fleet of electric trains, which could see the network extended across all six city region boroughs to places like Rainford, Woodchurch on the Wirral and Widnes in Halton.

It could also allow the new fleet to operate as far afield as Skelmersdale.

This funding is expected to support the creation of three new green bus corridors through Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton and St. Helens.

Known as ‘Green Bus Routes', they will feature measures to prioritise buses with a combination of priority lanes, traffic signal upgrades, remodelled junctions and upgraded, accessible passenger facilities.

The transport announcement also included a brief mention of bus rapid transit schemes.

These will be looked at as potential means of extending the Merseyrail network into hard-to-reach places.

It is hoped that this technology could benefit areas such as Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Speke, Kirkby town centre, Southport town centre, Wirral Waters and Liverpool’s Knowledge Quarter.

Rapid transit buses or 'trackless trams' are designed to have better capacity and reliability than a conventional bus system.

Typically, such a network includes roadways that are dedicated to buses and give priorities to buses at intersections.

The idea of rapid transit has been spoken about plenty of times before in Liverpool.

This has included serious proposals to link up the so-called Knowledge Quarter - including the city's universities - with the city centre and the new Paddington Village development.

Dubbed the 'Lime Line', it is thought a potential route would run from Lime Street, past the Liverpool Central area and up Brownlow Hill to serve the city's main university campuses.

From there, the route would head on to the new Paddington Village development - which includes the recently opened Spine building - before serving the Royal Liverpool and Clatterbridge hospitals.

The proposed route would then come back down London Road to the St George's Hall and Lime Street area to complete the loop.

Speaking earlier this year, Knowledge Quarter boss Colin Sinclair said: "The beauty of a trackless tram running on its own bit of highway means it won't get stuck in traffic and it also becomes a great cycle lane when the tram isn't running.

"It's like a guided roadway, there are lots of examples of this and its actually quite a simple and affordable way of doing things because there's no capital investment."

It is hoped this form of transport could solve the long-standing conundrum of creating better connections between Liverpool John Lennon Airport and the city itself.

Liverpool South Parkway is promoted as the station for LJLA, but it is three miles away and there have long been calls for a new Merseyrail station to be created to serve the airport.

Such a project is in Merseytravel's long-term rail strategy, but it would cost a lot of money and there are lots of things quite literally in the way.

There are houses, buildings, roads, shops, cables and plenty of other things that would make it difficult to plan a route.

A much easier, cheaper and more practical option could be to create a rapid bus transit route that would connect the aiport with the rest of the city.

Speaking about the new funding, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram: "Good public transport is vital for connecting our communities with opportunity and with each other, but too many people face being left behind by a transport system that does not work for them. I want our region to have what London has had for decades: a network that is quick, cheap, reliable and makes getting around as easy as possible.

“Through our hard work and lobbying we have forced the government to take those plans seriously and the £710m we have secured is testament to that. This funding means we can get on with delivering some of the projects that are central to that London-style system."

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