The project will involve extensive redevelopment of the Port of Liverpool and the Manchester Ship Canal and will be led by the Peel Group, the largest property investment company in the United Kingdom. Liverpool Waters and Wirral Waters, which together form the Mersey Waters Enterprise Zone, are also part of the project and Peel are also proposing renewable energy solutions which would give the region greater dependence on stable energy.
Liverpool and Manchester became rivals with the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894, which resulted in job losses at the Port of Liverpool, but the 2011 plan hopes to link the trade of the two cities to create, in the words of chairman of Peel, John Whittaker, "the most dynamic and economically sustainable region in the UK."
It is hoped the plan will balance the north-south divide by transporting goods to the north of England by sea and canal rather than them having to travel from the south of England, often by road. It is envisaged that thousands of jobs would be created at the Port of Liverpool and along the Manchester Ship Canal. The Manchester Ship Canal runs alongside Trafford Park, Europe's largest industrial estate and home to many international companies such as Kelloggs and Adidas. In 2007, supermarket chain Tesco became the first modern retailer to transport its goods by canal. Its wine imports from South America, Australia and California are now brought through the Port of Liverpool and the Manchester Ship Canal to a storage facility at Irlam and then transported to a bottling plant less than a half a mile away. It is estimated that some 180,000 litres of wine a week are transported along the canal in this way taking 50 lorries off the road every week and, according to Tesco's own estimates, cutting carbon emissions by 80%. The ship canal is also used by Shell UK to transport 20% of its output of petrol and diesel and RHM plc ships more than 100,000 tonnes of wheat a year from the Royal Seaforth Grain Terminal at the Port of Liverpool to its mill in Trafford Park.
As of 2010, only 7 percent of the cargo-carrying potential of the Manchester Ship Canal is utilised, with the UK relying mostly on the transportation of goods now done by road haulage. Britain's roads are some of the most congested in Europe, with Manchester and Liverpool being the 4th and 8th most congested cities in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, Leeds and Sheffield, two cities which would be in proximity to the Port Salford freight terminal, also make the top ten of most congested cities in the UK. Peel believes using the Port of Liverpool and the Manchester Ship Canal to ship goods into the heart of Northern England would solve some of these problems and be an economically viable option. They also believe that the rising cost of fuel and the fact that road haulage volumes have to remain flat until 2050 for the UK to hit is carbon emissions targets, makes the Ship Canal a worthwhile project. In recent years, companies such as Prince's, Tesco, Adidas and Shell have used the barge service on the Ship Canal to transport products further inland from Liverpool.
The project spans over 50 miles along the Manchester Ship Canal and River Mersey between Liverpool and Manchester and includes plans to invest in renewable energy such as tidal energy, biomass energy and waste-to-energy options. Proposed renewable energy projects have, however, hit snags with concerns as to whether they are economically viable. Examples include a £3.5 billion project to create a tidal power station on the River Mersey which was hoped to power up to 500,000 homes, but which was shelved in 2011. Peel stated that construction would take 10 years and it would be decades before they would make a return on the investment. Other renewable projects have faced opposition and from local residents who would be affected by the developments. In July 2010, Peel Energy proposed the Barton Renewable Energy Plant in Trafford which would be fuelled by biomass. There have been protests about the creation of the plant but Peel claim 80% of the public support the plans which they say would provide energy to 40,000 homes.